Bucs QB Jameis Winston had a dominant performance in the first half of Tampa Bay's 30-13 win vs. Cleveland – Photo by: Getty Images
It was just like at Florida State for former Seminoles teammates Jameis Winston and Roberto Aguayo on Friday night as the Buccaneers delivered a brutal, 30-13 beat-down of the visiting Cleveland Browns in a nationally televised game on CBS.
Florida State is where Winston often put the ball in scoring position and either threw a touchdown for the Seminoles or set up Aguayo for field goals.
That’s the scenario Bucs general manager Jason Licht envisioned in Tampa Bay when he spent a first-round pick on Winston last year, and boldly traded up to spend a second-round pick this year on Aguayo, the most accurate kicker to come out of college football.
Roberto Aguayo struggled on Tuesday, missing three kicks – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Both of Licht’s moves raised some eyebrows and invited some criticism when they happened. Yet Winston quieted his critics last year with a 4,000-yard season that culminated in a Pro Bowl appearance.
However, an early, unexpected slump in training camp from the rookie kicker only riled up Aguayo’s critics.
Both young Bucs had their struggles in the preseason and caused the fan base to fret. Licht likely perspired a bit more on game days this August as a result – until the Buccaneers bashed the Browns in a newly renovated Raymond James Stadium.
That’s when Winston shrugged off a 0-for-6 start in last week’s lackluster win at Jacksonville to start red hot, and Aguayo erased the memory of missing two field goals by connecting on all of his kicks. That’s right – all of them.
Aguayo was 3-of-3 on field goals and 3-of-3 on extra points.
Dirk Koetter’s weeklong mantra to his team was to start fast – and start fast it did. The Bucs opened fast with Winston debuting a no-huddle attack on the game’s opening drive.
A genius idea.
“We went no-huddle the whole first half and it worked,” Koetter said. “Jameis came out on fire and made some beautiful plays.
“We have a lot of confidence in our no-huddle. We work on it a lot. We have a lot of different packages.”
Winston has already shown how comfortable he can be in an up-tempo offense – both in Tallahassee for two seasons and in Tampa Bay last year.
Hey, if that’s what it takes to get Winston going early, Koetter should start every game in a no-huddle, up-tempo attack.
“He’ll be the first to tell you that he likes playing that way,” Koetter said. “All of those guys like playing that way. After that first drive, even though it ended in a field goal, Evan Smith walked right by me and said, ‘Stay in it! Stay in it!’”
Bucs QB Jameis Winston – Photo by: Getty Images
Winston began the game up-tempo and completed 3-of-3 passes for 45 yards with two completions to Mike Evans for 39 yards, including a 23-yarder. But the opening drive stalled at the Cleveland 30, but ended up being nearly as good as finishing with a touchdown, as it gave the beleaguered Aguayo a chance to drill a confidence-building 48-yard field goal, which he did to give Tampa Bay a 3-0 lead.
“We went a little up-tempo there, so it was good to kind of get the tempo going and get in a rhythm,” said Bucs wide receiver Adam Humphries. “It was good to see Jameis complete some balls down the field and get in that good rhythm.”
Winston’s well-documented offseason training showed off on a nifty third-down scramble for nine yards on third-and-7, in which he calmly – but quickly – rambled to the outside after a fumbled shotgun snap and then wisely slid for a first down.
Winston missed Humphries across the middle on the first throw of the Bucs’ second drive of the game, but found him for a 23-yard gain and a first down out to the Cleveland 45. After that big completion, Winston continued in the no-huddle and handed the ball off to Doug Martin, who ripped off a 14-yard gain to the Browns’ 31.
A few plays later on third down-and-goal at the Browns’ 3, Winston once again showed off his svelte physique and increased mobility by easily eluding Browns linebacker Nate Orchard and defensive lineman Xavier Cooper, keeping his eyes in the end zone and finding Charles Sims for a 3-yard touchdown.
Everything you wanted to see from Winston – a faster start, accuracy, mobility, the deep ball, and touchdowns without interceptions – was on display Friday night.
“I like starting fast,” Winston said. “That’s a big thing for our offense – starting fast. … With just my confidence with me starting slow the last game, we wanted to make a statement. Show these people what we are all about. I believe we did that. But it’s just one game and we have to get better.”
Winston wasn’t perfect. There was a mishandled hand-off (recovered by the Bucs), he couldn’t find an open receiver for a touchdown pass in his second red zone trip, and he failed to produce points in a two-minute drive right before halftime. But the kid is just entering his second year in the league.
He’s hardly a finished product. Yet Friday night showed Winston to be an improved product. Now let’s see if he can be a consistent product.
Winston did a better-than-expected job of scrambling last year as a rookie, evidenced by a highlight-reel, tackle-breaking, 20-yard run on a third-and-19 situation in a win against Atlanta, as well as a franchise rookie-record six rushing touchdowns. Winston’s enhanced mobility was on display on Friday night, but not nearly as impressive as his deep passing, which needed improving.
In the first half, Winston hit five passing plays downfield of 20 yards or more, including a great back shoulder throw to Vincent Jackson that covered 31 yards, and a 47-yard strike to Evans on a go route that showed tremendous touch from the young QB. Evans, Jackson and Humphries all averaged over 19 yards per catch.
“Jameis was really sharp,” Koetter said. “It was great to see both Vince and Mike get involved.”
Perhaps his best throw of the night was a perfectly placed 34-yard touchdown strike to Evans, who finished with five catches for 110 yards, with 6:02 left to push Tampa Bay’s ridiculous lead to 27-3. At that point, Winston was 12-of-18 for 232 yards with two touchdowns on the night – and Aguayo was perfect on all five of his kick attempts. He would finish 6-of-6 on the night, connecting on all three field goals and all three extra points.
Bucs K Roberto Aguayo – Photo by: Getty Images
“Roberto had a huge night – not just the field goals, but the kickoffs,” Koetter said. “We said a while ago he’s a tough-minded kid. He was definitely in a little bit of a slump there for three, four or five days. Whatever it was. He was in a slump.
“The day you thought he didn’t kick, even though he did kickoff 10 times against Cleveland, Nate [Kaczor] brought all of the specialists over here and they kicked in the stadium. I think that was good for him to come over with the special teams coaches, the two punters, the two holders and the long snapper. He kicked about 25 kicks over here in the stadium and they had the scoreboards on. It was great to see. That’s definitely the guy we drafted. That’s what he’s getting paid to do and he did it.”
Despite being without starting guards Ali Marpet (ankle injury) and Kevin Pamphile (attending his mother’s funeral), Winston led the Bucs to 305 yards of total offense by halftime and helped produce for 20 of Tampa Bay’s 27 points. Humphries’ dynamic, 73-yard punt return for a touchdown accounted for the team’s other score.
It’s not unusual for the starters to play into the third quarter of the third preseason game, but after Winston completed 16-of-25 passes for 259 yards with a pair of scores by halftime, Koetter had seen enough and had Mike Glennon start the second half.
The next time we see Winston under center will be on September 11 in Atlanta in the 2016 season opener. After Friday night’s masterful performance, he’s ready.
With the struggles that Aguayo has had with his misadventures in the field goal and extra point department, you almost wish he didn’t have to kick next Thursday night against Washington in the preseason finale and head into the regular season with some confidence and momentum.
Then again, if the rookie kicker is on a roll, by all means roll on, Roberto.
Scott Reynolds is in his 23rd 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 enjoys giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
First time I got to see the bucs this offseason and that as fantastic. The no huddle start is something koetter really needs to consider.
Jameis was dropping dimes tonight a hung of beauty. He as made for this offense. I guess some would be kind of surprised to see it as our resident expert bucnut thinks he only completed passes to delivery truck drivers.
Mike Evans was dominant and the offensive line played fantastic.
Again I have to tell myself , it’s cleveland.
All three phases were on a roll and Roberto needed this game badly. I was sweating bullets for the kid on that first attempt.
Wow is all I can say and while this team won’t be consistent, they’re too young yet and a few pieces away. This game was sure fun to watch.
Fiver to mention the defense which was outstanding. It’s amazing what they look like with company coaching. The front four was nasty and it was good to see spence get his first sack as well.
Secondary was lights out outside of grimes getting beat a few times, although I’m not sure that wasn’t a push off on that td.
Hargreaves is legit, I’m very impressed and even pinks favorite player johnathan banks showed up today. But alas, it was the Cleveland Browns.
Yes, at least start the games with the no huddle. I am very sorry to hear about Kevin Pamphile’s mother.
I was very happy to see Roberto make all of his kicks and Mike Evans straight up dominated tonight
The Bucs were great in all three phases in what was a fantastic showing in front of a national audience. Well done! Let’s hope it carries over into the regular season.
Yes, my condolences to Kevin Pamphile.
It was great to have the fans cheer Roberto when he came out to attempt the first field goal.
Was a very good night overall! Browns came out over focused on the run and Winston just destroyed them with play action. They bit hard every time. I’m ready for the season to start! So glad we got through the night with no major injuries too. Great night.
Sorry to hear of Pamphile Mother’s passing. He too young to lose a parent and I feel for him.
Several things were apparent in this game
1. Jameis is LEGIT
2. Evans has fixed his dropsies
3. We have a legit return man in Humphries
4. Our OL depth is very comforting
5. Aguayo seems to have gotten the butterflies out
Unfortunately, it’ll be another 2 weeks before we see a game that matters, but I’m looking forward to seeing the backups get more work in next week while our starters enjoy a well deserved rest
I forgot to mention the defense has been solid, both the line and secondary look leagues different than last year. Of course our LB corps looks as good, if not better than last year
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