(Photo Credit: Sporting News)
A lot of attention has been paid to the Buccaneers offense this off-season. Not just by the fans and media, but by the team itself.
Still, the Buccaneers have done enough on defense since we last saw them that fans have reason to inflate their hopes for 2017 a bit.
It’s not so much the new additions to the defense which might spark the most excitement though.
Instead, the two returning starting cornerbacks have showed early flashes in camp. Their consistency or inconsistency will certainly have a big impact on the NFC South title race.
In his first season with the Bucs, Brent Grimes played better than any fan probably imagined, and good enough the Dolphins have to be kicking themselves for setting him free.
Leading the league with 24 passes defended, the veteran made a very real impact on a very inconsistent defense.
It was his early season contributions which undoubtedly helped facilitate the improvement of the safety play behind him.
On the other side of the field was first-round rookie Vernon Hargreaves III.
As far as regular seasons go, VH3 didn’t have the best.
Ten passes defended and one interception aren’t the production Buccaneers fans saw coming from the former Gator.
He showed flashes though, and his talent couldn’t be denied, it just had to be harnessed.
Thus far in camp, it’s apparent he’s come a long way in a short period of time.
In his piece published on Buccaneers.com, Scott Smith quotes Dirk Koetter as saying,
“Vernon’s playing a lot more aggressive, which we asked him to do,” followed up with “Brent Grimes is playing lights-out right now and Vernon’s right on his heels.”
If the elder corner has come back for 2017 picking up right where he left off, and Hargreaves is close to matching his play, then the Bucs may have something here.
What should be most exciting to fans of the franchise is the comment about his aggressiveness.
Splash plays are fan favorites for a reason. They create, keep and capitalize on momentum.
According to Smith, it was the second-year defender who, “might have been the most impressive performer on defense”, when writing about early portions of the Bucs’ off-season program.
If this duo can combine for 40 pass defenses and 8-10 interceptions in 2017, then it’s going to take some pressure off the oft-criticized safety group, and lead to more sacks as quarterbacks hesitate precious milliseconds when targeting this talented pair.
There will always be some logic to tempering expectations. The Buccaneers squads of the past have given this fan-base reason to pause, and history could certainly repeat.
Still, if reports from camp continue then Tampa Bay may battle for the NFC South crown in a very real way.
David Harrison is the NFC South Division Manager, Tampa Bay Buccaneers Lead Writer, and Draft Analyst for Pro Football Spot. Follow @draftharrison on Twitter as well as on Facebook. Check out his other work HERE.