TAMPA, Fla. -- Rookie Vernon Hargreaves made a splash with two interceptions in Saturday's Tampa Bay Buccaneers preseason win against the Jacksonville Jaguars, and then Tuesday's joint practice with the Cleveland Browns saw the first-rounder pick off Robert Griffin III twice in 7-on-7 work.
Hargreaves has started working with the first-team defense, both at outside cornerback and inside at nickel, and linebacker Lavonte David said his recent surge went hand-in-hand with the former Wharton and Gators star simply building some self-confidence.
"His confidence skyrocketed since Day 1. Skyrocketed," David said. "All you need, for a rookie, all you need to do is just make some plays, make plays here and there and your confidence boosts and your game takes over. That's what's been going on. You can tell he's carrying himself different now, has a little swagger to him. He's making plays and that's the reason we got him. He's doing what he's supposed to do."
--As Bucs rookie kicker Roberto Aguayo has struggled in his first two preseason games with three missed kicks, defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said Tuesday that he's made a concerted effort to encourage the second-round pick to remain confident and push through his current problems.
"One thing I've done with him is go to him and encourage him. He's a rookie," McCoy said. "He was drafted high as a kicker, so a lot of expectations come with that with being the guy. Who better than me to go talk to him about being drafted high and being expected to be the guy right away? Especially with me struggling the way I did early on with injuries and not living up to expectations, who better to go talk to him? I just go encourage him and say 'Hey, listen, stay the course. It'll come along.'"
--Bucs coach Dirk Koetter wants his team to get off to a faster start Friday against the Browns than they did in the first two preseason games.
"More than anything I want to come out of it healthy," Koetter said. "We can say all we want about these preseason games, but just in the last couple days we get some guys nicked up and the bottom line is it's 18 days until Atlanta. And we've got to worry about having the best 46 guys we can out there on September 11. So that's the number one thing. And then after that you just want as crisp of execution as you can get. But again, we're going to be mixing (and) matching lineups based on trying to protect guys' health."
NOTES: G Ali Marpet had a walking boot on his right sprained ankle and did not practice Wednesday. His preseason is most likely over but they hope to have him available for the season opener at Atlanta Sept. 11. ... PK Roberto Aguayo, who went 3-of-6 in field goal tries in practice Tuesday and was booed, did not have to attempt any kicks against the Browns on Wednesday. ... C Evan Smith moved to right guard to replace injured G Ali Marpet in the starting lineup Thursday. ... QB Jameis Winston was intercepted by Browns CB Joe Hayden for the second straight day.