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Washington washes away Bucs in preseason finale, 20-13

This is the NFL?

The Tampa Bay Bucs lost 20-13 to the Washington Redskins Wednesday night, concluding the preseason for both teams. Few regulars played in the game, played in a downpour from nearing Hurricane Hermine. Few fans attended the game.

“This game serves a purpose,” said coach Dirk Koetter.

How much were tickets? The Bucs didn’t dress out 25 players from their roster, including most of their starters. The Redskins didn’t dress 26, including most of their starters.

Worst depth: The Bucs gained 22 yards in the first half. On 25 plays. With their bottom of the roster playing against the bottom of Washington’s roster.

Trade fodder: There had been a lot of talk of other teams coveting Bucs’ backup Mike Glennon. But Glennon was only one-of-five for minus one yard. His rating was 39.6. Third team quarterback Ryan Griffin hit 23 of 39 for 190 yards.

Best scrub: The Redskins got 130 yards rushing from former Florida running back Mack Brown, including a 60-yard run. For the game, Brown had 149 and Robert Kelley had 99.

Best Buc: Tampa Bay’s Roberto Aguayo stayed hot, hitting two more field goals and another extra point to account for much the Bucs scoring.

“On a night of lowlites, that was one of the highlights,” said Koetter.

Fancy seeing you here: One of the players who dressed for the Bucs was tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins. “We wanted to get him some reps,” said Koetter.

Feared in the Deep: The Bucs leading receiver was Freddie Martino, a free agent from North Greenville  University(team nickname: the Crusaders).

Missed tackles: For most of the night, Koetter lamented the Bucs lack of tackles. Washington rushed for 245 yards and averaged 6.6 yards per carry.

Speedy Reedy: The lone Bucs’ touchdown was scored with 57 seconds left when Ryan Griffin hit Bernard Reedy for nine yards.

Bucs’ coach Dirk Koetter thinks the Bucs can make a big turnaround

He said it.

Dirk Koetter, professional coach and the man who knows the Tampa Bay Bucs better than anyone, said the phrase “16-0” on Tuesday. Yes, he was talking about his Bucs.


Koetter was asked about the Bucs, and the possibility of the team going from 6-10 to 10-0. And suddenly, he was talking about being undefeated.

“I hope this team goes from 6-10 to 16-0, myself,” Koetter said. “But I think the most important thing in any team that has a turnaround one way or another is still injuries. When you’ve got 53 guys, every team is fighting health once Week One starts. And for the most part, teams that do well in this league stay pretty healthy, they stay with consistent lineups.

“There’s a few exceptions to that, but I think health is the most important thing. After that, I just think leadership within your locker room and talent. And I think we’ve improved in both those areas. I think we’ve got pretty good leaders in our locker room, we had good guys to build around on defense already. (Quarterback) Jameis (Winston) going into his second year is an excellent guy in that role on offense and then the talent that we’ve added from last year to this year. We’ve added as many as possibly six new starters. Like ‘Smitty’ (Defensive Coordinator Mike Smith) always says, we have 16 starters on defense, when you talk about sub-defense, we’ve added maybe six new guys on that side of the ball. And we return everybody except (retired guard) Logan (Mankins) on the offensive side of the ball.”

Koetter said he was glad the preseason was at an end.

“You get to a certain point of diminishing returns where the guys are kind of tired of it, the coaches are kind of tired of it,” Koetter said. “And then the hype. After playing a home game in the stadium the other night — and we played well — you can feel it; it’s getting close to being here. And then of course everybody’s talking about cuts and the final 53, the season’s getting close, the players got a couple days off and the regular season’s here. The job is not finished because there’s things that have to take place tomorrow in the game to wrap this up, but on the other side our sights are set on the Falcons.”

One place the Bucs will keep an extra player evidently will be quarterback. In a perfect situation, Koetter might not.

“I feel great about that room,” Koetter said. “I think we have good depth. Again, if it was a perfect world, we are getting to the point where it would be better for our football team if we could keep two quarterbacks because we’re going to have to let some guys go that we don’t want to let go. And I think the perfect set-up with the way the NFL is structured right now, is two quarterbacks and one on practice squad.

“But if you have a good one and you try to put him on practice squad, the league is so short of quarterbacks, he’ll get scooped up like that. We had two guys we were waiting on last year and Ryan Griffin was one of them. We had two guys that we had our eye on, only one of them came open (and) we snapped him up. And like I was saying yesterday, we invested a year and it just so happens that Mike (Glennon’s) deal’s up (after the season). If we didn’t have that situation with Mike, then maybe things would be different.”

Bucs final preseason game moved to Wednesday night

Those quick starts that coach Dirk Koetter has been shooting for will continue for another week.

Thursday night’s game between the Tampa Bay Bucs and Washington Redskins has been moved to Wednesday night. The change is in an effort to avoid anticipated severe weather from Tropical Depression Nine which is expected to impact the Tampa Bay area.

“We have been in regular communication with administrators from the Tampa Sports Authority, Hillsborough County, the City of Tampa and the National Weather Service over the past day as it has become apparent that the most severe weather associated with Tropical Depression Nine will likely make landfall on Thursday,” said Buccaneers Chief Operating Officer Brian Ford. “This decision was made by both teams in conjunction with the National Football League and local authorities in an effort to ensure the safety of our fans, players and stadium staff.”

The game is the final preseason game for the Bucs. It is expected to be played mainly between players trying to make each team.

Kickoff is 8 p.m. at Raymond James Stadium.

Bucs face tough choices at final cutdown day approaches

For the Tampa Bay Bucs, the final exams are important for the guys at the end of the roster.

It’s the fourth preseason game, which means you won’t see much of Jameis Winston, Mike Evans or Doug Martin. Instead, the conversation will be on the fourth- and fifth-receivers, on the third running back, on the backup defensive backs and linebackers.

Just like everywhere else.

The Bucs will play the Washington Redskins at 8 p.m. at Raymond James Stadium Wednesday night.

Consider the receivers: Evans, Vincent Jackson and Adam Humphries have the team made. But how about after that. Russell Sheppard has had his moments. So has Donteea Dye. But also competing for work are Kenny Bell, Freddie Martino, Bernard Reedy and Jonathan Krausse. It is also possible that the Bucs decide they like someone on another roster better than any of them.

“It’s bunched up and you can take almost any guy out there and pick a day that that individual has shined,” said Bucs’ coach Dirk Koetter. “We tend to lean towards consistency and guys that have shown they can make plays and make plays in game situations and then been consistent players, so we’re still looking. It’s down to the end here and a decision is going to have to be made.”

Then there is the running back. Martin and backup Charles Simms are in, obviously. After that, it pretty much depends on the body type and the set of skills involved. Mike James, Peyton Barber and Russell Hansbrough are competing.

“That’s kind of like the wide receiver thing in that all those guys have had their moments,” Koetter said. “Also, as we’ve mentioned in here before, running back is a position that takes a pounding. We try to protect them out there when we’re practicing against ourselves, but in the game those are pretty violent hits those guys are taking, so we’re a little banged up at running back right now. Of course we try to keep Doug and Chuck out of harm’s way here this week, so I’d say there’s still some work to be done there.”

What the Bucs do at tight end will be interesting, too. They’ve kept three, but you could make an argument for four with Cameron Brate, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Luke Stocker, Brandon Myers and Dan Vitale. Kivon Cartwright and Alan Cross are also competing.

It will also be interesting what the Bucs do on the defensive line, at linebacker and in the secondary as they get to the 53-man roster. Last year, several players made the roster after being cut in years past.

“Just do the math,” Koetter said. “When you go from 90 to 75 and 75 to 53; 32 teams, the number of good football players – not just that cut yesterday, but are going to get cut at the end of the week – it’s a lot of good players. And the guys that you just mentioned, one thing it does is it says something about player development. There’s really two ways you can go: you can churn the bottom of your roster and continually bring guys in – there’s people that have done it that way and done it successfully.

“And then you can also, if you like the guys that you have on the bottom and you have to make some tough decision and let them go, you can continue to develop those guys, bring them back hopefully on the practice squad, continue to develop them, continue to coach them. And those players still get better, those guys still improve.”

Chemistry between Jameis Winston, Mike Evans is working already

The grand chemistry experiment between Jameis Winston and Mike Evans of the Tampa Bay Bucs is off to a flying start.

Stop them if you can.

The duo was deadly Friday night against the Cleveland Browns in a 31-13 preseason victory. Winston hit 16 of 25 passes for 259 yards and two scores in the first half.  Evans caught five passes for 115 yards.

“I think there’s a little bit of a misnomer out there that there’s not a lot on Jameis’ plate, or that it wasn’t last year,” Bucs’ coach Dirk Koetter said Saturday. “If you’re playing quarterback in the NFL, there’s a lot on your plate. We had all that stuff before, but Jameis’ ability to recognize it – the clock’s ticking down – and get us into a different play, and then for all 11 guys to execute that play, that’s the trick.

“Jameis had two beautiful ones last night. The one to Mike, that was a check. We had a run play on, they actually came out in 3-4 and we were expecting nickel. They came out in 3-4, he went right to the check and got him. And then there was another one later when they showed a blitz, we went six-man protection, they showed a blitz that overloads six-man protection, a blitz they got us on in practice the other day, and Jameis got us right to the right thing, hit Mike for a first down. Those are two examples of him doing a great job. I wouldn’t necessarily say that those things weren’t on his plate last year; they just may or may not have not presented themselves.”

Winston is the third-leading passer in the NFL’s preseason, playing to a 108.5 rating. In three games, he’s hit 26 of 44 passes for 384 yards.

Evans is tied for 13th in the NFL with eight catches for 143 yards.

“Mike wants to be great,” Koetter said. “The numbers are the numbers and I think whatever (they are) – two or three guys in NFL history have had 1,000 yards in their first two years. But Mike knows he left plenty on the table and Mike knows how talented he is.

“He also knows we missed him some times. It’s our jobs as coaches – you’ve got these special talents at different positions, they don’t all come in the same box – so we’ve got to figure out how to best use Mike, Vincent, everybody else, and we’ve got to get Jameis and Mike on the same page on how best. How did Mike get used in college? Shoot, Johnny Manziel went back there, scrambled around for 10 minutes and threw a jump ball and Mike caught it. That was their offense, and they were great at it, so we have to take advantage of stuff like that.”

The Bucs finish their preseason Thursday night when they are home against Washington.

Jameis Winston, Roberto Aguayo shine as Bucs beat Browns

This is the Tampa Bay Bucs that Dirk Koetter had hoped to see.

Everyone else, too.

In the all-important third preseason game (the starters play longer than any other game), the Bucs beat up the Cleveland Browns, 30-13. And most of Koetter’s checklist responded.

Jameis Winston played well. And Roberto Aguayo. And Mike Evans. And the offensive line. And the defensive line. And Adam Humphries. And on and on.

“We went no-huddle the whole first half, and it worked,” Koetter said. “Jameis came out on fire, made some beautiful plays.”

Best win: The third preseason game is often called the Dress Rehearsal because the starters play more than in any other game. For the Bucs, it couldn’t have gone much better. The Bucs were sharp, including only three penalties for 25 yards.

Fastest start: Through two games, the Bucs had started the game slowly, much to the irritation of head coach Koetter. Not Friday night. The Bucs entered sizzling, scoring 27 points in a quarter and a half and rolling over the Browns. Quarterback Winston threw for 269 yards in a half, and receiver Mike Evans caught five passes for 115.

He’s No. 3: Third receiver Humphries showed why he’s the third receiver, catching two balls for 39 yards and returning a punt 73 yards.

Key Rookies. No. 1 draft pick Vernon Hargreaves got his first start. No. 2 pick Noah Spence got his first sack. And the second No. 2, the much-discussed Roberto Aguayo, kicked field goals of 48, 21 and 27 yards and hit all three of his extra points.

“I’ve done this my whole life,” Aguayo said. “I just sit back and think that my collegiate career didn’t happen on accident. I realized how I got there and just doing what I do on  a regular basis — not trying to overthink about it.

“When I made that first kick — with every kick — they congratulate me. It’s always good when you do your job.”

Next week: The Bucs play against Washington on Thursday night.

Bucs’ quarterback Jameis Winston wants faster start

When the Tampa Bay Bucs play in their home stadium for the first time Friday night against Cleveland, quarterback Jameis Winston wants to start fast.

So far, he hasn’t. He fumbled early against the Eagles and missed his first six passes against the Jags.

This time, he wants to hit the field in a hurry.

“Every rep matters, so it’s something that we want to do,” Winston said. “We know that if we do start off fast or we start playing with a tempo, we play better.

“I’m getting better every single day, and I do because it starts with me. I’ve got to get it going – similar to that Jacksonville two-minute [drill] during practice. We started off fast and practice ended up really good. I’m supposed to be the leader of this team, so I’ve got to start fast. It starts with me.”

 Winston said it doesn’t matter what the play call is.

I think it’s just overall getting completions,” Winston said. “Completions lead to ball movement, and ball movement leads to first downs, first downs lead to touchdowns, so it doesn’t really matter which play we are running, it’s just execution.”

Winston said the key to the Bucs’ offense was easy.

“Execution,” he said. “You can’t have setbacks; you can’t turn the ball over. In our first two games, I had a turnover in that second drive that we had against Jacksonville (Jaguars), and I had a turnover in the first drive against the (Philadelphia) Eagles. You can’t have turnovers – like I said that’s on me, that’s why I said it’s on me, so I have to own that and bounce back and start fast.”

 “It isn’t a secret formula you’ve got to just execute in everything, mentally, physically, every aspect of the game because if you don’t do good you’re going to try to find something to nitpick and say, ‘Oh you didn’t do this.’ So you’ve got to get better at every aspect of the game. Building on your positives, eliminating the negatives.”

Bucs’ coach Dirk Koetter was looking forward to playing a home game.

“It’ll be exciting to play in front of the home crowd, that’s for sure,” Koetter said. “And with the new stadium, with the scoreboard and all that, I know the players are excited to see it. That part will be good. Typically [in] preseason games, the crowd’s not much of a factor, home or away, but we’re definitely excited to be home for the next two games.”

Linebacker Lavonte David said he was looking forward to extended play.

“During this process (of) preseason, you’re just trying to see where you’re at,” David said. Conditioning-wise, and also mentally going through a football game because that opening week, you’re playing against at least 65 plays plus. So being able to come out here and play a full first half and then probably play some of the third quarter, it should give you a good feeling for how a regular season game’s going to be.”

Defensive line has been a key to Bucs’ improvement so far

The improvement of the Tampa Bay Bucs’ defense through two games is no accident, says under tackle Gerald McCoy.

McCoy pointed to the newcomers up front who have led the way.

“We brought in some guys,” McCoy said. “Robert Ayers is a vet and [has] got a lot of experience, really good player. He has a lot of nastiness to him, which helps us out a lot when we’re preparing in meetings, individually, and getting ready to go against other teams.

“And then Noah Spence is coming along strong. Clinton McDonald is Clinton McDonald; we call him ‘The Hammer’ for a reason. So guys are developing. Will Gholston is really having a good camp, he really is. And Coach (Mike) Smith’s scheme is great, man, It leaves opportunities for everybody to make plays.”

McCoy likes having other vets on defense for the team to lean on.

“Having more vets, instead of just being the one, having more people to go to — and even for me, because Daryl Smith is like 100 years old. So I can go to him, he’s got a lot of experience, and he’s been in this defense before, so he’s really, really big for us,” McCoy said.

McCoy said the goal is for all 11 players to move as one.

“Yeah, like I [was] just asked, that defense you [saw] with Denver last year and that 2002 Bucs defense, they were — let’s take away all of the Hall of Famers on the defense and just look at how 11 people, when the ball moved, 11 moved as fast as they could to wherever that ball is at,” McCoy said. “That’s where we’re trying to build ourselves on. If we’re out of place, it doesn’t matter if we’re out [of] our gap, if you get out [of] your gap, you turn, and you go as fast as you can. Because we had a play against Jacksonville [where] Gholston got out of his gap, fell on the ground, popped up and made the play like 10 yards down the field. You ask what our identity [is], that’s what we have to be.”

Defensive tackle Clinton McDonald said the team did OK in its practices against the Browns.

“I feel like we did an OK job,” McDonald said. “We’re never satisfied if we’re not on the field showing greatness. So we did OK in certain aspects. In certain aspects, we have to straighten up and get our act right. But for the most part, I feel like every day’s a learning process, every day you’re either going to get better or get worse, so we’re striving every day to get better.”

Head coach Dirk Koetter said the offense struggled against another team for the second straight week.

“We had balls tipped; we had poor throws, and we had bad protection. Bad combination,” Koetter said. He said place-kicker Roberto Aguayo continues to struggle.

Bucs prepared to work against Cleveland’s 3-4 defense

The Cleveland Browns, like the Tampa Bay Bucs, have struggled in recent seasons.

So what can the Browns offer the Bucs in this week’s shared practices?

Start with alignment. The Browns use a 3-4 defense, which will be a new sight for the Bucs. The 3-4 is a different defense to block, and different for a quarterback to read.

“Cleveland is a 3-4 defense and we’re going to see like eight 3-4 teams over the course of the year, so two extra days of working against a 3-4 are huge and then they’re a zone-read team on offense,” Bucs’ coach Dirk Koetter said. “That’s not all they do, but over the first couple of games they’ve probably averaged, I’ll say, six or seven zone-read plays a game where the first two teams (we played), not so much. And we need to see zone-read for down the road when we play teams like San Francisco and Seattle and Carolina, of course. Each team is a little bit different, but just playing and working against different guys is good.”

 Koetter said that playing against a 3-4 team requires more game-planning.

“We run some stuff that we want to work on for 3-4 teams, but game planning is serious business,” he said. “I probably spend, on a real week, I probably spend close to 40 hours working on a game plan. I just don’t have 40 hours, none of our coaches do right now and things are changing. A lot of your regular game planning is key to specific personnel, and when they’re playing three-deep, like we may want to attack X, Y and Z. X in the pass game, Y in the run game, Z on the perimeter. But now those guys play two series, well it just doesn’t make sense to game plan, you don’t have time, you’ve got other stuff going on. Our game plans are much more detailed and that’s why, as we talked about the other night, preseason is a catch-22. You want to win because they’re keeping score, but at the same time, the preseason was set up to evaluate your team to how you’re going to get from 90 down to your final cuts, your 53, that’s what it was set up for. I’ve been game planning for 35 years, I don’t need to practice game planning.”

For the Bucs, there are different rules to attack the defense.

“Yeah, every year you have basically what you’d call your even front rules and your odd front rules,” Koetter said. “So we’re working a lot on our odd front rules on plays. And one thing Cleveland does that makes it challenging is they’ll mix back and forth – even within a series, they’ll switch back between even and odd. So that’s one of the problems a 3-4 presents for an offense, is they make you be on top of your communication. You’re not always blocking the same rules. Typically the outside linebackers in 3-4 are really just big defensive ends, so in pass protection you’re trying to keep your backs from not having to block those guys. You want to make your calls so that your linemen are blocking those outside backers and your backs are responsible for the inside guys. In a 4-3, you’re fine. Look at (linebacker) Lavonte David as our outside linebacker and from a size standpoint, we’d be fine with our back blocking a size guy like that.”

Koetter praised rookie cornerback Vernon Hargreaves, the team’s No. 1 draft pick, who had two interceptions Saturday night.

“Thinking about moving him to receiver,” Koetter said. “Those were two great catches, two beautiful plays. His range on the one when he was at nickel, you’re not going to see many – well, [cornerback] Brent Grimes might argue – but you’re not going to see a whole lot of better catches than those two.”

Koetter said those were the kinds of plays that undersized corners have to make.

“They have to have good ball skills, and our guys do,” Koetter said. “They have to be explosive to the ball, and our guys are. Like we said before, they’re not going to grow, we’re not going to change them out at this point, our corners are who they are. We’re happy with them, we like what they’re doing but they’ve got to be able to go get the ball. I think that Grimes, there [were] two examples in the Jacksonville game, and both times he should’ve had safety help but he didn’t, the safety got out of position.”

Slow starts bothering Tampa Bay Bucs after two games

Tampa Bay coach Dirk Koetter’s team needs to be better at the start.

That goes for quarterback Jameis Winston.

And for kicker Roberto Aguayo.

Heck, for the Bucs in general.

Oh, make no mistake. The Bucs had their share of good glimpses for the season to come in Saturday night’s 27-21 victory over the Jags. The secondary had four interceptions, and there were fewer penalties and fewer dropped passes.

There was good. There was bad. The Bucs won. But the Bucs didn’t look crisp enough to make you think the team would be significantly better. All of which leaves Koetter trying to figure his team out.

“Defensively, the positives: Four turnovers, of course we’d take that every week. We handled sudden-change situations well when our offense turned it over a couple times,” Koetter said. “We did a good job in two-minute drives, got interceptions, really, in both two-minute drives. So those were three positives. The negatives: Our first group did not play as well. They just weren’t as consistent, maybe not as physical, not as detailed. Our red zone efficiency was not where it needs to be. And we didn’t pressure the quarterback like we’d like to do.”

“Offensively we did play more physical than we did the first week. We ran the football. Everybody was worried about the run game; we ran for over 150 yards. And we did a good job of reducing our penalties.”

Koetter said his team has to get off to a better start.

“It is two weeks in a row in the preseason with this year’s group that offensively we’ve started slow.” Koetter said. “That’s just a fact; it’s happened. How are we going to fix it? If I knew that, it would be easy to do. I don’t know that exactly. We’ve got to talk to them about it, we’ve got to emphasize it. I think more than anything, we’ve got to get Jameis off to a quicker start. He just started real slow last night.”

Winston seemed more out of rhythm than he did in the first preseason game (when he hit seven of nine).

“I don’t know about the rhythm part, but he wasn’t as accurate as he needs to be,” Koetter said. “He missed a couple throws. The one to Vincent (Jackson), the fade ball down the sideline to Mike (Evans), those are throws that have to be better.

“He’s looked fine. You’ve got to remember, a year ago at this time we were scared to death because Jameis was throwing three or four interceptions every day in practice and he’s definitely not doing that. He knows what he’s doing. Jameis, the competitive side of him, he sometimes tries to do too much. Example would be it’s third-and-15 last night and he gets in a scramble situation. No matter how you slice it, he’s going to run for five yards, but he refuses to slide and lets the whole defense hit him. Now we ended up getting a penalty there which I think is more luck than anything else, but that’s the kind of stuff where Jameis, he sometimes tries to do too much and again, that’s just one example that you don’t have to win the game every single play.”

Koetter wouldn’t use the word “concern” to describe how he feels about Aguayo’s slow start.

“Well, I don’t know if ‘concern’ is the right word, but every player on a football team has a specific role and a specific job to fill and they’re expected to do their job,” Koetter said. “Roberto, in both of the first preseason games — I mean, he’s been pretty consistent in practice — but in both of the preseason games he’s missed kicks that he’s expected to make. You know, he’s working with two holders — we can make all kinds of excuses, but the bottom line is he’s expected to make those kicks. He knows it, of course. Everybody knows it and we can’t hide behind it. We can’t hide behind any of our mistakes and trust me, I’m making more than anybody out there. But yeah, he’s got to make them.

“Yeah, that’s what I was talking to Nate [Kaczor], our special teams coach, [about] and when a guy that’s as good as Roberto — I think professional kickers, like professional quarterbacks, are a lot like professional golfers. We’re all amateur golfers but when you go watch the pros play, they’re on a different level. I don’t know what’s wrong with Roberto right now. Maybe there’s some nerves in there, I don’t know. He might be overthinking it. There’s definitely pressure on him. It is the preseason, it’s the time to work it out, but I’m not the guy that can help him. I’m not that guy.”

 The Bucs play the Cleveland Browns in their preseason home opener Friday night.

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