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Vernon Hargreaves flashes 'skyrocketed' confidence

Tampa Bay Buccaneers first-round corner Vernon Hargreaves is climbing up the depth chart.

The rookie defensive back made two splashy interceptions in Saturday's preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars -- he flashed his uber athleticism on the first -- and added two more off Robert Griffin III during joint practices with the Cleveland Browns on Tuesday.

Hargreaves has begun working with the first-team defense, both at outside corner and inside in nickel situations, Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times reports.

According to linebacker Lavonte David, the rookie's rise is a product of growing 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."

Hargreaves began the season behind veterans Brent Grimes and Alterraun Verner on the depth chart but is pushing for more playing time.

Lovie Smith's tenure in Tampa ended in part because his defenses were talent-deficient and mistake-prone.

If Hargreaves continues to rise, the Bucs own a potent corner trio entering the season. The additions of Robert Ayers, rookie Noah Spence and the return of Kwon Alexander should solidify the front seven.

The 2016 Bucs defense boasts much greater overall talent than last year's unit that gave up the seventh-most points in the NFL. An improved defense should take pressure off Jameis Winston, Doug Martin and the offense, and keep them from having to score more than 26 points a game to win.

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