Tampa Bay Buccaneers kicker Roberto Aguayo deserves second chance

Photo via Orlando Ramirez / USA Today Sports

By now, many people have heard of Tampa Bay Buccaneers kicker Roberto Aguayo’s troubles on the field. Last season, Aguayo only made 22 of his 31 field goal attempts, putting him at a 71 percent conversion rate.

Many fans in Tampa Bay took this as enough to write Aguayo off. Many felt as if he had failed them by his consistently poor performances.

[irp posts=”9836″ name=”Why the Buccaneers’ Vegas win totals are wrong”]

Image result for roberto aguayo fsu celebrate
Aguayo is regarded as one of the best kickers in FSU history. Photo via the Associated Press

Aguayo was a standout kicker during his tenure at FSU, making 88 percent of his attempts.

So why the drop-off in performance?

Some just chalked it up to the difference between the NFL and college football. However, back in 2014, Aguayo made this 53-yard field goal against Miami, clearly, distance was not his issue.

Others blame it on nerves, saying that Aguayo just can’t take the heat of the NFL. Because of this, a large percentage of Bucs fans decided it was time for Aguayo to go, and it seemed like the Bucs leadership agreed. As such, they picked up former New York Jets kicker Nick Folk as a potential replacement.

[irp posts=”10451″ name=”DE Noah Spence is key to Bucs’ defense in 2017″]

Image result for nick folk
The Bucs picked up Jets’ kicker Nick Folk as a potential replacement for Aguayo. Photo via Saed Hindash / the Star-Ledger

There is now an intense kicking battle between Folk and Aguayo doing what general manager Jason Licht hoped it would do, kick Aguayo into gear.

A couple of weeks ago, it looked like Aguayo was shaping up in the Bucs’ minicamp. “Roberto is actually getting better,” Licht said via CBS Sports.

The kicker has been making progress in practice and Licht is “excited that he actually has progressed from where he was from last year.”

[irp posts=”10908″ name=”Buccaneers’ RB Doug Martin must be healthy on and off field before NFL return”]

The point is, Bucs fans and the NFL media need to give Aguayo a break. A disappointing rookie season for a kicker isn’t unprecedented.

Oakland Raiders kicker Sebastian Janikowski, who has made over 80 percent of his field goals over his 17-year career, had a similar rookie season. Janikowski, also out of FSU, made 68.8 percent of his kicks in his rookie season.

If Aguayo doesn’t shape up for next season, then, by all means, the Buccaneers should replace him with a different kicker. But given his previous excellence in college, he needs a chance to settle into the NFL.

Hopefully, Aguayo can continue his improvement and become a consistent kicker so the Bucs can live with themselves after taking him in the second round of the 2016 NFL draft.

Buccaneers’ RB Doug Martin must be healthy on and off field before NFL return

Photo via Getty Images

By now, Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans are well familiar with running back Doug Martin’s difficult journey back to the team. He’s had a rough time since his start in 2012, despite being an outstanding running back.

In both 2012 and 2015, Martin ran for over 1,400 yards. However, in 2013, 2014, and 2016 he ran for under 500 yards.

The difference is stark: when he’s healthy, Martin tears up the field.

[irp posts=”10451″ name=”DE Noah Spence is key to Bucs’ defense in 2017″]

Image result for doug martin running
When healthy, Martin is an outstanding running back and an invaluable asset to the Bucs. Photo via Jamie Squire / Getty Images

Most of last season, Martin was sidelined with a hamstring injury, and he only accumulated 421 yards. This didn’t look great for a running back closing in on his thirties, but he more recently dealt with another setback.

At the end of the 2016 season, Martin was suspended for four games because of drug use. Many speculated that Martin would lose his spot on the team.

Martin then checked himself into rehab, and recently broke his silence and made a statement about his rehab for the first time. 

“It was a journey these past few months,’’ he said. “You know, with the statement and I had to get help. It was a journey of self-development. I learned a lot about myself. I’ve had the support of my family, my friends and teammates all around and I’m happy to be back here.’’

Martin claims that his drug use is completely behind him. Assuming it is, he still has a lot of ground to cover if he hopes to retain his starting position for Tampa Bay.

[irp posts=”9836″ name=”Why the Buccaneers’ Vegas win totals are wrong”]

Martin, now 28, is coming close to the age where running backs seem to drop off in performance. Most running backs lose steam around the 30-mark, and unless Martin proves himself as absolutely indispensable, his days in Tampa Bay might be close to being over.

In order to stay relevant, Martin must prove to the Bucs leadership that he’s an asset that will pay off. With the Bucs on the brink of what could be a playoff season, every player has to carry his load and be at their bests.

As long has he stays healthy, Martin will prove once again he’s one of the best running backs in the NFL.

DE Noah Spence is key to Bucs’ defense in 2017

Photo via Getty Images

By the numbers, it looks like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ offense is set up to be phenomenal this season. All the keys are there, with Jameis Winston holding the fate of the offense in his hands.

But what about the defense?

Tampa Bay’s defense wasn’t remarkable last year, but there’s one impact player who will change the course of the Buccaneers’ defense: defensive end Noah Spence.

[irp posts=”9836″ name=”Why the Buccaneers’ Vegas win totals are wrong”]

If you haven’t heard of him, that’s because he hasn’t spent that much time on the field. Last year was his rookie season, and it was plagued with injury.

In Week 4 he partially tore his labrum and dislocated his shoulder in a game against the Denver Broncos.

Image result for noah spence vs broncos
Spence dislocated his shoulder and tore his labrum during a game against the Broncos. Photo via Icon Sportswire

In a show of his dedication to the sport and his team, he popped his shoulder back in before returning to the sideline and trying to get back into the game. This story continued for the rest of the season, as he played the next week, and the next 12 games after the injury.

Bucs general manager Jason Licht said “it’s hard to keep him off the field,” and Spence agrees—“Being away from it makes you want it even more,” he said during OTAs this Spring.

Image result for noah spence dirk koetter
Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter talks with Spence during a mini camp in Tampa. Photo via Kim Klement / USA TODAY Sports

Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter also had high praise for his young defensive end after OTAs.

“He’s looked really good. I love his attitude, definitely has pass rush ability, love how our defensive coaches are bringing him along, but especially I just like his attitude and the way he’s approaching it every day.”

[irp posts=”10491″ name=”It’s A Different Game: How zone defense changed everything in the NBA”]

Just as impressive as Spence’s dedication are his stats. Playing in a very limited role during his rookie season, Spence recorded 5.5 sacks despite being injured the entire time.

Now that Spence is in full health, many on the team are looking forward to his return to the field.

Veteran defensive end Robert Ayers sees big achievements in Spence’s future. “I think he’s a player who could be a 15-plus sack guy this year,” Ayers said in a press conference in May. “He’s going to tear some stuff up this year and I’m looking forward to it.”

This is a big claim considering the Bucs haven’t had a player with more than 10 sacks in a season since Bucs defensive end Simeon Rice in 2005.

Regardless, when you consider the fact that even in a limited role Spence was able to rack up 5.5 sacks, his future looks good. Fully healthy, he’ll be the key to the Bucs’ defensive prowess this upcoming season.

[irp posts=”10101″ name=”LeBron James’ ‘The Decision’ costing him the 2017 NBA Finals”]