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Bucs’ Roberto Aguayo finally living up to his draft expectations

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Don’t look now — or maybe risk one eye — but THIS is the field goal kicker the Bucs thought enough of to draft in the second round.

Maybe it’s hard for you to admit it, but Roberto Aguayo is on a hot streak. Yeah, yeah, early in the season, it was fashionable to doubt Aguayo, the rookie from Florida State. But Aguayo hit four field goals Sunday in a 19-17 victory over Kansas City, and the Bucs needed them all.

In fact, if you go back to the night of Oct. 10, when Aguayo lined up for the winning field goal against Carolina, he has hit 10 of 11 field goals and 13 of 14 extra points.

“I think (it was) just mostly between his ears,” said coach Dirk Koetter in Monday’s day-after press conference. “I think he got shaken, confidence-wise, a little bit there with some misses. That’s one thing about the NFL, is you hear about it from all sides. You hear about it from the coaches, from the fans, from the media, of course, you get hammered.

“For a young guy, that can rattle your bones a little bit and I think he just went back to the basics, worked on his routine, really cleaned up his mental approach. I think he was a little bit all over the place with how he was approaching his kicks, to use a golf term, what his ‘swing thought’ was or thoughts, maybe having too many. He seems to be hitting the ball much better now and was clutch yesterday.”

It isn’t just Aguayo who is playing better. Safety Chris Conte has had back-to-back solid weeks. Rookie lineman Caleb Benenoch has survived. Backup cornerback Alterann Verner played well Sunday.

“There’s no rule that even the best in the world can’t get better,” Koetter said. “There’s something to be said for player development and it starts with the guys wanting to get better and working at it. I’ve definitely been on teams where guys wouldn’t do that and then the fact that the coaches are working with them, pushing them, driving them.”

The Bucs are 5-5, but they face a stiff test Sunday when Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks come to town.

In particular, Koetter praised Conte.

“I think that’s part of it. He’s being asked to do a lot more. He’s being asked to, in the two-deep scheme — and we weren’t in two-deep every play, sometimes people make it seem like we were in two-deep every play, we weren’t. But, we’re not in two-deep hardly at all right now and in the quarter scheme and in the three-deep scheme, those down safeties, they’ve got to make tackles. And it’s physical, you’re playing against 230-pound running backs with a full head of steam when they get to you as a safety. So, Chris tackled a lot better yesterday, he did make the single biggest play of the game on that interception.

“That was a play that we’ve been burned on more the once — the hard run fake, the little glancing post in behind the safety. And I think [defensive tackle] Gerald [McCoy] got a finger on it, it was a nice catch by Chris and then a quick transition. Got two really nice blocks, [linebacker] Kwon [Alexander] got out in front as did [defensive end] Will Gholston. That was a minimum 10, maybe 14-point turnaround right there.”

Sunday’s game time is 4:05 p.m.

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Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit garysheltonsports@gmail.com.

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