There was a lot to look forward to outside of the game of football for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' first home stand of the year. The new sound system was installed. The new scoreboard was lit. There were concerts and fan giveaways before the game. All of that would've made a worth-while experience for a preseason exhibition. But, to Tampa fans' delight, there was a lot to get excited about on the field as the Bucs beat the Cleveland Browns 30-13.
Aguayo is back
For the last two weeks, all Bucs fans have heard on local and national radio is what to make of Roberto Aguayo's recent misses, something he wasn't suppose to do from easy yardage. After not missing a single kick from within 40 yards during his career at FSU, Aguayo missed multiple kicks -- including an extra point -- from inside that distance in his first two NFL games.
However, tonight, Aguayo was given a shot at redemption -- and it was very early on, too. After receiving the kick, the Bucs drove the ball into Browns territory, but stalled on third down. That brought Aguayo out for a 48-yard field goal, and to the relief of Bucs fans everywhere, he ripped it right down the middle. Aguayo went on to go 3-for-3 on field goals and 3-for-3 on extra points. Even if the confidence isn't completely back, it was certainly a much needed step in the right direction.
Jameis Winston felt at home
Home field advantage is always coveted, but it means more for certain players. Tonight, it sure looked like it meant a lot to Jameis Winston.
On the first touchdown of the game, Jameis capped off a long drive by making something out of nothing, extending the play all the way until he was hit hard at the release and made sure his team got six.
This is what made Winston the top quarterback selected two years ago. His ability to make plays when the original plan goes awry is something you can't teach.
But even thought making unconventional plays is fun to watch, it's not something you want to have consistently happen -- as a fan, you'd much rather see the original gameplan work. Thankfully, Winston is pretty good at that, too.
THIS IS SOME SEXY STUFF RIGHT HERE pic.twitter.com/AW11jFBQud— Trevor Sikkema (@TrevorSikkema) August 27, 2016
This, this right here, is beautiful football. A six-foot-five wide receiver lining up against a shorter corner in press coverage is just begging to get beat over the top. The thing is, it take a few moving parts to make it happen. The quarterback has to recognize it pre-snap (whether that WR is the primary target or not), the wide receiver has to know the space he has beyond the press, and the quarterback has to have the ability to float a pass down the field as the receiver gains speed and separation.
Winston and Evans had all of that here, something that Bucs fans yearn to see become a weekly thing.
Mike Evans with the "This Is Why You Draft Me In Fantasy Football" kind of touchdown. pic.twitter.com/N8dwo2J6G8— Trevor Sikkema (@TrevorSikkema) August 27, 2016
A few plays later, Winston and Evans ended the drive the same way they got there. This throw was more power than touch. With defenders in his face, Winston threw the ball without stepping in and was still able to get it around Evans, who adjusted to the pass and carried his man into the endzone.
This pitch and catch was pure talent being executed in non-ideal situations by both Winston and Evans. These guys can get it done, they've proven they can win in a variety of situations. I think we're going to see Koetter emphasize the catch radius of Evans (and Jackson, who had three nice catches very early on) more than ever.
Fear the front seven
The Bucs have now played three opponents, and in all three instances, the first-team front seven has been dominant.
I highlighted this -- one of the five sacks the team had in the first half -- because it is the McCoy, Ayers, Spence combo again. Here we see McCoy and Ayers stunt at the defensive tackle positions, with Spence rushing from the LDE spot. We saw them run this exact same set up against the Eagles in week one, and the result was the same: a sack. Mike Smith's defense is nothing like a Lovie Smith defense. The defense this year is going to be based on speed, aggression and creativity at every level.
Best of the rest
For your weekly secondary update, Vernon Hargreaves III started the game with the first team at outside corner opposite Brent Grimes. On Wednesday, I mostly saw Hargreaves and Verner as the outside corners, but it ended up being Grimes on the first few series.
This was sort of expected as I noted that Smith will most likely mix and match Verner and Grimes to opposite Hargreaves as the year goes on. When the team went to nickel formation, Hargreaves indeed shifted inside to pay the slot while Verner and Grimes played their more natural positions on the outside. Secondary work involves a lot of chemistry, letting Grimes and Verner play where they're most comfortable makes sense when the team goes nickel, I don't expect that to change as the regular season rolls around.
Adam Humphries got the start on punt returning duties, and ended up bringing one back for a touchdown. Bernard Reedy was his backup and came in after Hump's score.
Staying along that theme, Peyton Barber was the third running back to see action after Martin and Sims. Barber ended the game with the most carries out of all Tampa RBs with nine, but only accumulated 16 yards on those carries.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins got the start at tight end, even in blocking situations. It seems Koetter shares the fans' desire to get Evans, Jackson and Seferian-Jenkins on the field all at once, and that lineup was called upon quite a few times in the first half. That trio ended the game with 10 total catches on 15 total targets (Jackson had the most with nine).
Overall, it was a very entertaining game offensively. Though we should remember that Cleveland's defense is bad, for once it was Tampa beating the team they should, and not the other way around. I wrote on Wednesday that the Browns' offensive playmakers looked far more explosive than what Tampa's defensive players were ready for. However, Josh Gordon was the only player who could break loose on Friday night for Cleveland.
You could say the game played out as opposite as I thought it would, but that's a good thing. It was a nice win to get under the belt.