TAMPA – The Buccaneers will wrap up a week of often feisty workouts against the Jaguars in Jacksonville with their second preseason game of the year tonight at EverBank Field.
Bucs coach Dirk Koetter is expected to play his starters for nearly a half tonight as the Bucs try to improve in several areas after dropping a 23-12 decision to the Bengals in their opener last Friday.
With their only roster cut to the final 53-man limit still two weeks away the Bucs don’t have to make any critical decisions just yet but they do want to start getting a read on who does and doesn’t fit.
With that in mind, here are three areas worth watching a bit more closely tonight as the Bucs try to get back on the winning track and even their record before coming home for the final two games of the preseason.
Roberto Aguayo’s incessant struggles have forced the Bucs to more or less ordain veteran challenger Nick Folk as their kicker for the 2017 season. But it’s not like Folk actually beat Aguayo out for the job.
Aguayo beat himself out, missing an extra point and a 47-yard field goal during the opener last week in Cincinnati while Folk made good on his only attempt of the night, a 45-yard field goal in the third quarter.
What’s worrisome about the situation as it stands now is that Folk hasn’t been any more consistent in camp workouts than Aguayo, even missing a kick inside of 50 yards during a joint workout with the Jags this week.
The Bucs are confident that Folk will be just fine and especially in the games, but one miss will leave everyone wondering yet again if the Bucs kicker really do have their kicker or if the search for one must go on.
The red zone
The Bucs finished the 2016 season ranked a disappointing 21st overall in the league in red zone efficiency, turning just 51.9-percent, or 28 of their 54 red-zone possessions, into touchdowns.
It was more of the same last week in the preseason opener, where the Bucs first-team offense drove the ball 92 yards downfield on its first possession only to fall short of the end zone.
It was actually Aguayo who bailed them out, hitting on a 20-ayrd field goal, but not before quarterback Jameis Winston failed twice to connect with wide receiver Mike Evans on fade routes in the end zone.
Improved red-zone efficiency was a big focus of the work the Bucs put in during their joint workouts with the Jaguars this week, largely because this is an area the Bucs still have to get a lot better at.
It’s worth noting that long before they traded back up into the second round to draft Aguayo last year, the Bucs actually spent the first of what became two second-round picks on defensive end Noah Spence.
That’s why any suggestion that the Bucs could have grabbed someone such as Jaguars end Yannick Ngakoue with the third-round pick they used to get Aguayo are kind of ridiculous.
It’s doubtful that after signing Robert Ayers in free agency and drafting Spence the Bucs would have tripled-down on the position, and from the looks of things, they didn’t have to.
Spence had been rather quiet in camp workouts but he came to life in the preseason opener last week with a tackle for loss and flashed consistently against the Jaguars in workouts in Jacksonville this week.
Spence is still working mostly in sub packages but another good outing by him tonight will only give the Bucs more reason to feel good about at least one of their second-round picks from the 2016 draft.