Wednesday, November 22, 2017
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Fennelly: Bucs-Browns grade book

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The place-kicker looked like a place-kicker. The star quarterback looked like a star quarterback, the offense looked like an offense. The defense looked like a defense. And Adam Humphries and the pun-return team looked like maniacs on one touchdown. • And that was just watching it on the new video boards. • Did we mention that the Browns are AWFUL? • It came together for the Bucs and coach Dirk Koetter in the first half of the preseason home opener and all-important third practice game Friday. • Better still, it came together for Roberto Aguayo, the Ice Man, and just before the guys with the butterfly nets came along. Aguayo was perfect, and he needed this night most of all. • Suddenly the season can't begin quickly enough. • Did we mention that the Browns are AWFUL?

The can't-miss kid

Grade: A

It isn't every day you see an entire football team rush up to congratulate a kicker for making a kick in a preseason game. But this is Roberto Aguayo's Magical Mystery Tour.

Exhale, Bucs fans. The kid did it.

Aguayo (left), and the mental coach he rode in on, made a 48-yard field goal early in the 30-13 win. Then he made an extra point. Then another extra point. Then another field goal, from 21 yards. Then another extra point. Then another field goal. Six-for-six. Automatic. Nothing to see here.

It was a far cry from the rookie quivering bowl of jelly we saw in the first two preseason games, when he missed an extra point and two field goals, and earlier this week in practice against Cleveland, when Aguayo missed three of six field-goal attempts. He seemed freighted with doubt. Fans booed. The kicker. At training camp. Now it's just a memory. Aguayo has even canceled his appointment with the witch doctor.

Put the QB in bubble wrap

Grade: A

He remembered when to slide and when to scramble. And when to mean business.

Right from the start.

Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston grabbed hold of this game early and held on. The Bucs jumped to a 27-3 lead.

It was just the look they needed.

Winston grabbed a ballcap after finishing with 259 passing yards, two touchdowns and a 125.3 quarterback rating. He made big throws all night. He improvised on the first touchdown, scrambling right, cutting back and hitting Charles Sims for a 3-yard score, and later threw deep, and well, to Mike Evans for a 34-yard score. Winston commanded the game, and even his own aggression, sliding down after a sizable scramble.

The receivers around him flourished — 115 yards for Evans on five catches, 78 yards on four catches for Vincent Jackson and 39 yards on two catches for Adam Humphries, who also broke away for a 73-yard touchdown after grabbing a punt.

Is this pass rush for real?

Grade: A

The Bucs' pass rush was all over Browns QB Robert Griffin III most of the night. After four sacks in the first preseason game and four turnovers in the second, the defense had some big moments, including eight sacks.

Any pass rush will be a good pass rush for the Bucs, and it will be the key to everything else for this defense.

Sackwise, it was Jacquies Smith with two sacks, Kwon Alexander, William Gholston, Howard Jones, Kourtnei Brown and Noah Spence with one, and Robert Ayers and Gerald McCoy split one.

Now it's just a matter of whether it's make-believe.

They weren't picking on Hargreaves

Grade: D

Brent Grimes had a rough night amid the happiness. The veteran, brought in to steady the secondary, looked more than a little ragged. The Browns had 119 yards passing in the first half, and 87 of them came on deep balls Grimes couldn't cover, one of them a 43-yard touchdown to WR Josh Gordon (below).

This was a concern when Grimes was brought in. Rookie CB Vernon Hargreaves III needed a steadying hand, but Grimes is going to need to cover bigger, taller men on a regular basis, and those days might be behind him. He left with a rib injury in the second half. Yet another worry. Great guy? Yes. Great acquisition? That pass rush better be all the more real.

Hargreaves? Looked good.

Hey, Doug Martin's shoe is untied!

Grade: A

The co-stars were the new, gargantuan high-def video boards, two big boards, four baby boards and a 6-foot ribbon of light and video love around Raymond James Stadium's midriff. Throw in the new surround-sound system and did we even need a game? Best video board moment: the shining face of the late Monsignor Laurence Higgins, one of the sweetest men to ever bless a town and true friend and fan of the Bucs and Tampa Bay sports.









   
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