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Slow starts bothering Tampa Bay Bucs after two games

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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.

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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