Bucs need to get off to quicker starts

by Gary Shelton on August 22, 2016 · 0 comments

in general

Winston needs to get off to a quicker start./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Winston needs to get off to a quicker start./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Monday, 6 a.m.

Start earlier. Practice faster. Preach urgency.

If you are Dirk Koetter, you have to get your team to the starting line.

Be in a hurry. Show up sooner. Move faster.

Whatever. You have to get off to better starts. You have to move fast enough to avoid a 10-loss season. Because of this: In the NFL, the opposite of a fast start is a slow death.

If two games of the Dirk Koetter era show nothing else, it's the need for speed. It's the need to get off to fast start. It's the desire for skid marks.

Look around. Jameis Winston had a bad night Saturday night, pretty much, because his start was atrocious. He missed his first six passes and ended up hitting only three of nine for 28 yards.

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Then there was Roberto Aguayo, who was such a good college kicker the Bucs couldn't wait to draft him. But for the second straight week, Aguayo missed his first kick of the night.

And, of course, there were the Bucs in general, who fell behind 14-7 when the No. 1 units were playing. The good things: the secondary and Mike Evans and Austin Seferian-Jenkins – all came later. Hint: Koetter might want to tell his team that games start at 1 p.m. Or, better yet, at 12:45. Bad starts doomed the Bucs in several games a year ago. They have to do better this year.

If any team knows the danger of slow starts, it's this one. Heck, the franchise lost its first 26 games. That's a slow start. Leeman Bennett, the second coach, lost his first nine games. Tony Dungy, who just went into the Hall of Fame, lost his first five. Raheem Morris was 0-7. Lovie Smith was 1-8.

This is Team Slow Start. It never did get around to signing Bo Jackson. Alvin Harper got off slow. So did Sabby Piscatelli and Dexter Jackson and Eric Curry and Charles McRae. There have been seasons the Bucs were eliminated by the time they won their second game.

Now here we are again. Still hanging around the starting gates, talking about a good 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 (Saturday) night. Now, that interception I would say was more on the receiver than it was on the thrower but, still, the very first play of the game we had Vince (Jackson) wide open and Jameis has got to make that throw in his sleep. We've got to start faster.

"He wasn't as accurate as he needs to be. He missed a couple throws. The one to Vince, the fade ball down the sideline to Mike (Evans), those are throws that have to be better."

Aguayo has been noticeable in missing three kicks in his first two games, partly because the Bucs shocked some critics when they drafted him in the second round.

"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.”

Aguayo may be in the first slump of his life.

"Yeah, that’s what I was talking to Nate (Kaczor), our special teams coach, and when a guy that’s as good as Roberto – I think professional kickers, like professional quarterbacks are a lot like professional golfers,” Koetter said. “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.”

One player who is off to a good start in the two games is tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who has worked his way back into the mix.

"We’re going to even out those reps with the first group with Cam (Brate) and Austin,” Koetter said. “I mean, Austin’s worked his way right back in there and when he got moved down the depth chart all you can ask a  player when he gets moved down is that he competes and does better and tries to get back up there and he’s done that. Now, he’s not perfect by any means and Cam’s had a fantastic camp — he did not have a great night catching the ball last night — but we’re going to need both those guys. We ran a lot of three tight end sets last night and Luke Stocker and Brandon Myers and Danny Vitale are also doing some good things out there, but Austin and Cam are the two guys that can bring some verticality to your pass game. The catch in the second half that Austin made on the ‘bow-out’ — there’s just not a whole lot of guys that can make that play. He’s earned a chance to get back and work more with the first group so we should give it to him.”

Koetter said that Winston has looked good in camp so far.

"He’s looked fine,” Koetter said. “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.”

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