Ask Gary: Do you believe in defense’s fast start?

by Gary Shelton on August 27, 2016 · 4 comments

in general, Tampa Bay Bucs, Tampa Bay Rays

Kwon Alexander (58) and Noah Spence (57) bring down Robert Griffin Friday night./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Kwon Alexander (58) and Noah Spence (57) bring down Robert Griffin Friday night.

(Each week, the readers take over and play Ask Gary. They send in a question, or a couple, on Thursday night or Friday morning and we all talk about the world of sports.  Think of it as a radio show where you don't have to be on hold. Join us and ask a question, make a comment or be funny. Send the questions to

Saturday, 6 a.m.

The Bucs have the third best defense in preseason so far statistically. Is that worth hanging anything on?

 Even a leftover 2000 ballot chad?
Nick Houllis
Nick, we both know that stats don't mean a lot in preseason. But I always say this: It's better to play well than to play poorly. It's better to win than to lose. It's better to find money than lose it.
A franchise like Tampa Bay's needs the mental edge that playing well can provide. More than, say, New England or Green Bay. They need to show some pass rush (as they did against Philadelphia). They need to cover better (as they did against Jacksonville).
Of course, it means nothing if the team falls on its nose when the regular season begins. But I think it's worth a fresh canvas with this team. I thought the Bucs' defensive backs were poorly coached last year.  I thought they were outlined some weeks on their pass rush.
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This year, I honestly think the personnel are better. But the schedule is tougher. But I have wondered this: Could the Bucs be closer to being a defensive team this year? It's worth consideration.
Did  you see Friday night's game? Eight sacks will do. Better coverage will do. Yeah, yeah. The Bucs have played weak teams. But the Bucs aren't juggernauts either. I'm tentatively willing to believe the defense is better. Maybe even good.
The Bucs have raised ticket prices by 24 percent for the 2016 NFL season.  So can we expect the Bucs to win 24 percent more games than in 2015?
Scott Myers
I'm sure of it. Let's see. Out of 16 games, that would be roughly four more games. Right? Out of the six they won, that's roughly one and a half, shortened to two. So you have to get eight-10 wins for the Bucs to do their part.
That means that Winston will throw for 5,000 yards, and Mike Evans will catch roughly 1,500 yards worth of passes. They'll have one-fourth fewer penalties. You could go on and on with this.
Of course, I'd say that the last two years, the Bucs have vastly underachieved. So those numbers are conservative. But it's a starting point.
Of course, if ticket fees were dependent on a team winning, you'd have gotten in free since 2002.
Why did the Bucs discontinue Fan Fest?  I always looked forward to it and I was sure that they would want to show off the stadium this year.  It was a good way to bond with the fans.
Jim Willson
I'm in the Bucs' press box as I type this, and I've spent some time repeating your question to the people who matter.
The best answer I can get is this: It wasn't worth the effort for the team anymore. Coaches hated it, because a team goes from three fields to one. The profit of selling a season ticket had dwindled. It was hard on the players to spend hours in the sun signing.
I'm told that the team feels with 12-13 open practices, they can accomplish the same thing. There is the same music, the same stuff for sale. The only advantage is that a guy doesn't get to sit in his seat and see if it fits his buttocks. There is some advantage to that, but evidently, there wasn't enough for the fans.
I kind of like Fanfest. It was like a large outdoor party. I remember the 2000 fanfest. They showed a replay of the Bert Emmanuel catch (non-catch) against the Rams. The fans, as one, started to boo. It was pretty cool.
This year, of course, the Bucs had construction going on in the stadium. But they killed Fanfest last year. I know this: If the Glazers could make money on it, they'd have it.
How much longer is Aguayo's leash?  I know its hard to admit an error on such a high pick, and he certainly deserves the preseason. But at some point...
Jim Willson
Aguayo just hit a 48-yard field goal on the Bucs' first possession. I assume your heart is back in your chest? (For the night, he hit three field goals and three extra points).
Even without that night, I think Aguayo has a long, long leash. Don't you? I mean, on kicks that count, he's zero-for-zero.
The guy was a No. 2 draft pick, and you're ready to kick him to curb because he's missed three kicks in practice games. I'll be honest. I'm more worried about the kicks he's missed in practice than those. I fear some snakes may be in his head.
There was a reason the Bucs picked him  in the second round. There was a reason they were convinced someone else was going to do the same. So you stick with him as long as its a slump and as long as you think he might snap out of it.
Hey, maybe Aguayo has a terrible year and he costs the Bucs a game or two. Well, they aren't going to win the Super Bowl anyway. So you give the kid a chance to be the weapon you thought he could be.
What would you do? Cut him? That's silly. There was a reason you made him a No. 2 draft pick. I would wager that last year's No. 2 draft pick will make every team. Every team.
Trade him? What would you get? A fourth-rounder? A sixth? No, that isn't the answer.
Bring in another kicker? Do that, and the voices are really going to be in his helmet.
A lot of high-drafted kickers have fizzled. But not one of them did it in preseason. Not one. Relax. It's preseason. Let it play out.
I never read any comment on the fact that the Pack the Trop night attracted 15,000 fans.   The Red Sox are drawing 12,000.   Does Sternberg really want to build a new stadium in this area at this point?
Jim Willson
He says he does. But I have to say, if I owned the team, I'd think about it. It's a possibility that this is simply a lousy market.
Hey, I know readers on this very site who don't think it's worth the money to build a new stadium period. And that's fine. I've always thought that the area deserved a vote on it, but I could be wrong.
I know this: Building a stadium in Tampa isn't a cure-all. With a new stadium, and with more population closer to the stadium, I think it might bump up a bit. But only a bit. I've never bought that there are so many baseball fans in Tampa they'd pack the stadium, but those same fans won't cross a bridge to go to a game.
I was at the Thursday game, and I was amazed that Boston, in a pennant race, with a great slugger in his last days, couldn't draw more fans. Tampa Bay's fans. I understand. They've been in last place a long time.
Do you think this current, seemingly lengthy, inactivity by Desmond Jennings, (for a bruised knee? ), is a sure sign the Rays are not considering him as part of their 2017 team. Do you expect he will be " designated for assignment " soon? That's all I'm asking!
Richard Wade
Richard, I wrote this answer (all but this graph) before I heard the Rays were releasing Jennings tomorrow. I've always thought  he was a waste of a pair of cleats. There wasn't anything special about any part of his game.
The Rays have always thought a lot more of Jennings than I have. They talk about his abilities, but all I hear is a lack of production. He's a fast guy who doesn't play fast, who doesn't hit, and who has played his way out of centerfield.
I really don't get Jennings as a key part of the plan. I just don't. So, yeah, I think he could be designated for assignment. He's getting expensive, and his contract is up. He'll catch on somewhere as a fourth outfielder, but I think his days of being a starter are done.
Ask yourself this: What does Jennings do well? He's a career .245 hitter who has never had more than 14 home runs. The Rays talk about his talent and how he could take over any game. But when is the last one he took over?
He'll be 30 next year. Time for the player and the franchise to move on, isn't it?

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