FAB 3. Bucs Finally Have a Kicker They Are Confident In

The writing was on the wall for kicker Roberto Aguayo on March 18 when Tampa Bay general manager Jason Licht signed veteran Nick Folk, who had spent the last seven years with the New York Jets.

Bucs K Roberto Aguayo - Photo by: Getty Images
Bucs K Roberto Aguayo – Photo by: Getty Images

Aguayo, the kicker Licht traded up to draft in the second round in 2016 and caught a lot of flak for, was the league’s worst kicker as a rookie, connecting on just 73 percent of his field goals and missing a couple of extra points, too. The arrival of Folk, who is a career 81.3 percent kicker, meant that Aguayo clearly had to beat out the veteran, who was cut by the Jets after connecting on 87.1 percent of his kicks. If the kicking competition wound up being close, Licht and Koetter were going to go with the guy with experience.

When Aguayo’s first extra point attempt of the preseason clanked off the upright in Cincinnati and he missed a 47-yarder Koetter and Licht had seen enough, especially after Folk nailed his lone kick, a 45-yarder. Aguayo was gone the next day, with HBO’s Hard Knocks capturing the exchange by Koetter and Licht prior to Aguayo’s arrival to hear about his dismissal.

Koetter said that the Bucs needed to rally around a kicker and that kicker needed to be Folk, the veteran.

“It’s funny, but Folk is the one, if he has a couple misses out here in practice, when you get to a game, I have confidence he’s going to make it, just because of the way he’s wired,” Licht said. “Whereas it’s the opposite with Roberto. He can make 20 of his last 20 kicks and then go to a game and nobody’s confident he’s going to make it — not even an extra point.

“It’s just such a bigger mistake to keep holding on to him.”

Bucs GM Jason Licht and John Spytek - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs GM Jason Licht and John Spytek – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

And like that, Aguayo was gone. Yet in Folk’s first game as Tampa Bay’s anointed kicker he had a low extra point blocked, and missed a 47-yard field goal wide right from the left hash – just like Aguayo did a week earlier.

Still, Folk has the team’s confidence, and the Bucs hope the kicking carousel they have been on with five kickers – Rian Lindell, Connor Barth, Patrick Murray, Kyle Brindza and Aguayo – in the past five years comes to an end.

“Nick has been doing for it a while, and he’s been a kicker in this league for a while,” Bucs right tackle Demar Dotson said. “I don’t think anybody in this organization lacks confidence in him or that he’s not going to do it for us on Sundays. Even if he misses a couple in practice, you still have that confidence in him that when the lights are on, he’ll make it. I think his background speaks for itself. I think everybody has confidence in Nick.”

On Tuesday, Folk hit 6-of-7 field goals with his miss coming on a bad snap from Garrison Sanborn. Folk hit all four attempts on the skinny field goals including one from beyond 50 yards. On Thursday, the final day of training camp, Folk connected on 4-of-5 field goals from the skinny goal posts, and his lone miss would have been good on a regular goal post. Folk’s last kick was from 55 yards.

“We definitely have confidence in him,” Bucs left guard Kevin Pamphile said. “You have to have confidence in whoever is back there. We have to block up front for him and we have to trust that he’s going to make them all. If he misses one, we still have confidence in Nick to make the next one.”

Bucs K Nick Folk - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs K Nick Folk – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

The Bucs would like to see Folk have a perfect outing on Saturday when Cleveland comes to town for the preseason home opener. Tampa Bay is the only team not to connect on an extra point in the preseason, going 0-for-2. The Bucs are also the only team that has missed a PAT.

“You’ve got to have a short-term memory as a kicker, just like a DB,” said Bucs special teams gunner Ryan Smith. “You’ve go to the next play. It’s easier said than done, but you have to have that mentality. He’s going to do great, though.

“I have all the confidence in the world in Nick. You have to keep rooting your kicker on. I think every time Nick is back there he’ll make it.”

With an emphasis on scoring more points this season offensively to help Tampa Bay make a playoff push, the Bucs don’t want to see Folk have to attempt too many field goals.

“I only want him kicking extra points – all day,” Pamphile said. “As an offense all we want to do is score touchdowns and have Nick kick the extra points.”

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Scott Reynolds is in his 24th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his son's Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]

26 COMMENTS

  1. Scott, thanks for all the STATS. I your 53 man roster..

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  2. Great job! Barring injury this is likely our 53.

    RB Martin’s suspension gives the rookie RB three more weeks to prove he belongs. Really like your TE list as well as Glanton being in the LB group.

    Go Bucs!

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  3. I think the Bucs keep 8 DL and look for a reserve pass rusher to add from the final cuts around the league. The reason why is the Bucs have more than enough DL that can play the run, but as far as pass rushers are concerned they are very thing and J. Smith’s injury history should indicate Bucs should plan to groom a player as a plan B to develop.

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  4. I believe the red zone touchdowns will come once Jameis stops forcing the ball into double and triple coverage. One Jameis gets it going throwing to the open receiver, the touchdowns will come in bunches. Then he will be on the road to greatness. I thought Coach Koetter using the word “greedy” was significant. Sometimes, you have to say something in a different way to get someone’s attention.

    The roster looks pretty good. I wonder if they bucs keep three qb’s during the season once Griffin gets healthy.

    Joe Thomas reminds me of Paul Gruber. A great left tackle who played on bad teams.

    TGIF, the Fab 5 is here. Thanks Scott and go Bucs!

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  5. On paper we’re built to be a great red-zone offense. With our capable big receiver in Evans, our big play man Jackson, our highly capable tight ends in Brate and Howard, and our RBs with very good hands and big-play capability (Martin and Sims), and of course a quarterback Winston who does what he does.

    Does paper translate into TDs in the regular season? We can only hope. It hasn’t showed up yet in the preaseason, where our RZ percentage is even less than the crappy performance last season. Why hasn’t it shown up yet in pre-season? Who knows.

    Tom me even 60% is not enough .. the offenses in the upper 1/3 of the league are well into mid 60s. That’s where we need to be.

    In which case, in most games it won’t matter if our kicker is an 80% guy or a 90% guy.

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    • I forgot to mention that our offensive line is also built for the red zone, with a couple of real bruisers surrounding a very promising new starting center.

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  6. I like you 53 man roster except I don’t think we need to carry 5 TEs. I think they cut Stocker. Yes he is a good blocking TE but so is Howard and he is a playmaker. I believe that spot would be better used at another position.

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    • I can definitely see where Stocker is the odd man out.
      Auclair’s potential could definitely outweigh Stocker’s production.
      Auclair can do what Stocker can and he can still develop into an even better version of what Stocker was expected to be when he was drafted.

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  7. Based on the number of each position kept, your 53 is solid. There are two Wild Cards: position numbers and what happens when Martin returns.

    IMO, McNichols has not impressed at all. He could be the odd man out when Martin returns.

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  8. As usual, great Fab 5 Scott. Re the projected final 53 roster, I agree with it but will offer an opinion on the 3rd QB Ryan Griffin, the LB affectionately known as Joe Dirt and carrying 5 TEs.

    If the Bucs medical staff clears Griffin the Bucs will have no choice but to keep him as a 3rd QB or lose him from waivers. There are several teams that will welcome him with open arms as a back-up QB. If he is not cleared, I think he will go to IR to return, eligible to practice after 6 weeks and can be activated after 8 weeks. Reserve PUP is not an option because he has practiced during the preseason.

    I agree that LB Riley Bullough will be a victim of the numbers game and the requirement for that last LB to be a ST contributor. I almost feel like Coach Koetter has forewarned us of this when speaking about Riley in his pressers. However, if he is waived expecting to sneak him onto the practice squad is wishful thinking. Joe Dirt has the distinction of being recognized in FanRag network as one of the best 5 UDFAs in the NFL. LB needy Miami is just waiting for that to happen. My opinion, if waived, just say goodbye!

    Carrying 5 TEs is OK if you consider hybrid Alan Cross to be a HB (pass catching FB). It could end up being a hard choice between him and Luke Stocker. For now, with 2 preseason games left, I think they keep both.

    This is going to be a tough cut down process. Koetter says we have more quality depth than he’s seen in the 3 years he’s been here. Good problem to have, but not everybody will be happy. Go Bucs!

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    • Everybody seems to love Riley … but whom do you cut to make room for him on the roster? To me there are no obvious answers. Even some of the third string offensive and linemen who may not be fan favorites or big personalities, we still need depth in the trenches. Who wants to give up depth at the offensive skill positions, thinking our receivers, tight ends, and running backs are going to make it unscathed throoughout a 16 game season?

      Not saying Riley Bullough doesn’t deserve to make the roster … I’m just saying I am glad I don’t have to make the very tough decision. That’s why they pay Jason Licht and Dirk Koetter to make those decisions.

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  9. Wasn’t that Super Bowl season playoff win against San Fran a Divisional game? Bucs were #2 seed and had a Wild Card bye.

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    • Yes. I believe that was the year that the Giants had a botched snap on the field goal try. They then threw into the end zone but no pi was called. Obviously, the 49ers won only to be destroyed by the Bucs next week.

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  10. Swap out Hawley for Riley and I think that would do it for me. Hawley is strictly a center with no special teams ability. I love Joe, but it’s time to move on. If Ali suffers an injury, Evans can be the center.

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  11. Well thought out 53 man roster Scott. I think you are spot on with your predictions. I would rather the Bucs keep Bernard Reedy over Josh Huff though. Also with Devante Bond being banged up that may cause the Bucs to keep another line backer.

    Just for Fun here is my Bucs 10 man practice squad:

    CB Player from another team
    OT Player from another team
    CB Jonathan Moxey
    OL Michael Liedtke
    DE Channing Ward
    DT Stevie Tu’ikolovatu
    LB Richie Brown
    LB Riley Bullough
    WR Bernard Reedy
    WR Jesus Wilson

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  12. I want Stevie Tu’ikolovatu to make the team just so I can hear Dick Stockton try to pronounce it.

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  13. Reading that OL lineup makes me queasy. Dotson the only proven OT in the bunch, hopefully he and Sweezy can hold up or we’ll have a collection of swing/backup/needs to step up players surrounding our Center who could be the best OL we’ve had since Gruber.

    On the flip side this is the best set of pass catchers (WR + TE) we’ve had at one time by a mile. I, too, wonder about keeping Stocker given his relatively low ceiling but can live with it.

    Still not a fan of Sims, we need capable runners vs another pass catcher and he’s one dimensional, but we can afford to keep him and McNichols until the Dougernaut returns and cut the least productive. Liked what Barber has shown but it’s preseason and I still wish we had a bigger rock pounder to finish games late.

    The lack of proven talent at the DB position also jumps off the page. VH3 needs to put it all together, which I’d feel bad about expecting so soon if not for where we drafted him. If he can’t or if Grimes goes down, Houston we have a Problem.

    If given the choice I’d IR Griffin (if him not being able to play before week 8 is a problem the season is likelynshot anyway) and keep J. Dirt, or try to trad JD for a 6-7th round pick to a team that needs LB help and isn’t willing to risk him making it to them via waivers.

    All in, this is a pretty darn talented team that needs a little more depth to separate from the pack. But if a few guys step up as we’re hoping AND we get lucky with injuries look out it could be an exciting season, you wouldn’t want to face JW and those pass catchers in the playoffs…

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  14. Can’t make the club in the tub! While Riley can also play M.B., Bond better show up. I’ve seen more from Joe Dirt in two weeks, then I’ve seen out of Bond in two Years!

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  15. I think we have to keep Riley or another team will scoop him off waivers before he makes it to our practice squad. If Griffin starts the season on IR, that would make it very easy to keep Riley. If not, then one of Stocker/Cross/Auclair gets cut to keep Riley. I think Stocker would be the one who gets cut because he is a one-trick pony and injury-prone.

    The big question is what happens when Dougie Fresh gets back Week 4. That’s going to be a tough decision! Personally I think cut Ryan Fitzpatrick. If he is our QB the Bucs immediately lose any chance of winning big. At least Ryan Griffin is enough of an unknown that he may be able to do enough not to lose.

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  16. I think we keep Riley Bullough on the 53 man roster and not carry 5 tight ends! Our LB’s are going to get banged up over the season and we need the depth. No way Bullough clears waivers and makes it to the practice squad. And seriously, 5 tight ends!

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  17. Watching other teams this preseason I have seen third string QBs that are better than our third string QB who is injured to boot; so cut him and don’t carry three QBs. If our second QB goes down, pick up one of those superior third string QBs off their practice squad. That way you can add Bullough to our roster. I am yet to be sold on this week’s starting MLB. He lacks speed and has trouble getting off blocks. Otherwise, Scott, you have done well on all the rest of your roster predictions.

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  18. i say cut griffin. I think glennon will be available after this season for cheaper than we were willing to pay this offseason. Would rather have bullough or another kick returner with that roster spot.

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  19. I think Scott’s predicted 53 man roster is probably spot on if based solely on the current 90. However, history shows that there will likely be someone added from another team’s victims of the Turk. The back-up tackle spot is a concern.

    It’s hysterical that there is so much over-hyping of the player known as “Joe Dirt”. I too love his personality and obvious love for the game. It’s sure easy to root for that type of player. Without his co-starring role on Hard Knocks, most of us would be oblivious of him. The challenge he faces is that, at this point, he’s probably not as valuable as the players in front of him. Perhaps he can make it to the Practice Squad.

    I’ve seen enough of Ryan Fitzpatrick to hope Ryan Griffin is a fast healer. The guy with an obvious inflated opinion of himself leading up to his hold-out with the J-E-T-S last year certainly doesn’t make me think the team is in good hands with him holding the clip board. Just need someone who can come in and not lose the game.

    Looking forward to tonight’s game. After 40+ seasons on the east side, I switched to basically the same spot on the west side. I’m sure it will be an adjustment for me. Sun was never an issue for me. It was the fact that so many season ticket holders on the east side apparently purchased them for the sole purpose of selling them to the higher paying enemy fans. That’s akin to your best friend inviting you to a party while secretly inviting your ex girlfriend and her new beau. I’m grateful to the Bucs, and in particular Brittany, for accommodating my request.

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  20. My grandson and I were at practice on the 23rd. The team was in full pads,but the defense did not tackle. My question is that the norm?
    We had a great time although my grandson was not able to get Jamis Winstons autograph. Go Bucs !

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    • Yes, it’s common that Koetter’s team doesn’t tackle in practice.

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  21. Personally I’m hoping they go with Bernard Reedy over Josh Huff. I think he’s equal as a receiver, but much better on special teams. I also don’t see us keeping 5 TE’s personally. I think the Bucs have a better chance of sneaking Cross onto the PS than they do Auclair, some due in part to his presence on Hard Knocks.

    I really want Riley to make this team as a 6th LB. That said, the fact that he has only played MLB and not played the outside at all limits him. I feel he’ll be the favorite that’s playing for another team. That said with Bond out a few weeks, they could keep 6 LBs until he is completely healthy. If he does, Glanton could be the backup to Beckwith with Riley making the team as a backup to Kwon.

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