TAMPA — In a first half where so many things went right for the Bucs on Friday, nobody needed the jolt of confidence more than rookie K Roberto Aguayo.
The second-round draft pick out of Florida State took the field on Tampa Bay's opening drive against the Browns and drilled a 48-yard field goal, drawing cheers from fans who had seen him miss an extra point and two field goals over the first two preseason games, both on the road.
If that wasn't celebration enough, his teammates went out on the field to congratulate him.
The offense gave Aguayo plenty of practice against the Browns. He went 3-for-3 on extra points and 3-for-3 on field goals, adding a 21-yarder in the second quarter and a 27-yarder in the fourth.
Aguayo's struggles have been the biggest headline around the Bucs this week, but a resounding home debut should give him confidence with one more game before the regular-season opener Sept. 11 at Atlanta.
defense pitches in: Tampa Bay's defensive line got to Browns QB Robert Griffin III for five sacks in the first half, the first two by DE Jacquies Smith, who fought through a holding penalty on his first. Rookie DE Noah Spence got a sack, as did DE Will Gholston, and DT Gerald McCoy and DE Robert Ayers split a sack. The five sacks in one half were as many as the Bucs had totaled in their first two preseason games combined.
Big three: The Bucs' top three receivers accounted for more than 300 yards in the first half, counting Adam Humphries' 73-yard punt return for a touchdown. Mike Evans caught five passes for 115 yards and a 34-yard touchdown. Vincent Jackson caught four for 78 yards, and Humphries caught two for 39, so the three combined for 11 catches for 232 yards, a big chunk of Jameis Winston's 259 passing yards in the first half.
Okay, not perfect: CB Brent Grimes had a rough first half, giving up two deep balls, including the Browns' only touchdown. WR Josh Gordon, making his preseason debut, got behind Grimes for a 44-yard catch to set up a field goal, then he beat Grimes for a 43-yard touchdown with 1:53 left in the half.
The Bucs had rookie CB Vernon Hargreaves, a former Gator and Wharton High standout, in the starting lineup, rotating him through with Grimes and Alterraun Verner. He also worked inside at nickel.
Guard duty: The Bucs had success in the first half despite playing, as expected, without their top three guards. J.R. Sweezy (back) and Ali Marpet (ankle) were held out, and Kevin Pamphile was excused for a personal matter. Josh Allen and Evan Smith started at guard. The line didn't give up a sack.
The Bucs played without several other players, who were held out with minor injuries, including RB Mike James, LB Daryl Smith, TE Luke Stocker and DT Clinton McDonald.
WR Donteea Dye injured a hamstring early in the first quarter and was done for the night.
Lakewood High alumnus Bernard Reedy took over for him on kickoffs, returning one 21 yards. He also took over on punts after Humphries' touchdown, returning two for 16 yards.
Contact Greg Auman at [email protected]tampabay.com and (813) 310-2690. Follow @gregauman.