Not so special teams
When you fumble the opening kickoff of the first preseason game, well, there's nowhere to hide.
Kenny Bell, who has to prove he can contribute on special teams to earn a roster spot, did just that. He was hit and stripped of the ball by the Eagles' Najee Goode and Chris Margos recovered at the Tampa Bay 18.
Three plays later, including runs by Ryan Matthews of 10 and 5 yards, the Eagles were in the end zone.
"We can sit here and talk about how I haven't played, but at the end of the day I affected the game in a very negative manner tonight," Bell said. "That's just unacceptable. I can't come out and put the rock on the ground like that. There's no excuse for it."
That wasn't the only mistake. Jude Adjei-Barimah interfered with a fair catch, costing the Bucs 15 yards. And see the next item on K Roberto Aguayo.
The good? Well, P Bryan Anger pinned the Eagles at their own 9 by forcing a fair catch. And Jacob Schum followed suit by hanging a punt that the Bucs were able to make the tackle at the 15.
When you use a second- and fourth-round pick on a placekicker, even one as touted as Florida State's Roberto Aguayo, every miss will be scrutinized. When that miss comes on your first extra point from 33 yards, it stings.
Aguayo hit the right upright after a touchdown reception by Russell Shepard from Jameis Winston. Aguayo redeemed himself with a 38-yard field goal later in the game.
Pressure on QB
Tampa Bay signed Giants free agent DE Robert Ayers and used a second round pick on Eastern Kentucky DE Noah Spence to improve their pass rush. Make no mistake, those moves will pay off.
The Bucs got pressure off the edge and forced Eagles backup QB Chase Daniel to step up and into the waiting arms of another rusher.
Spence beat LT Jason Peters, and DT Clinton McDonald got the sack. DE Howard Jones came flying off the edge to collar Daniel. DT Akeem Spence drew a holding call, then sacked Daniel on the next play. DE Jacquies Smith and Jones had sacks. Not bad considering defensive coordinator Mike Smith didn't open the playbook.
The coverage was good, although rookie CB Vernon Hargreaves dropped an interception.
Shepard moves up
Russell Shepard was a quarterback at LSU and has made his living covering kicks on specials teams in the NFL. "Russell Shepard showed up in the receiver/special teams area," Koetter said. But the Bucs can't ignore how hard he plays at receiver. Shepard had three catches for 62 yards Thursday, including a 26-yard TD and another 30-yard catch and run. With Bell having a bad day, Shepard has jumped out as the receiver behind Mike Evans, Vincent Jackson and Adam Humphries.
The Bucs have a logjam at tight end with Cameron Brate, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Luke Stocker and rookie Dan Vitale. Good thing. Veteran Brandon Myers suffered a right leg injury and did not return. RB Charles Sims (ankle) sat out. DL William Gholston did not make the trip because of a family issue.