- Also, the relationship between DeSean Jackson and Mike Evans continues to evolve (or does it?), Gerald McCoy learns a lesson about touchdown celebrations from Ed Hochuli and Miko Grimes makes her debut.
Last spring, when HBO announced that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers would be featured on this season of Hard Knocks, it was clear that the kicker battle between 2016 second-round draft pick Roberto Aguayo and veteran Nick Folk would be one of the main storylines throughout the season.
Well, that storyline came to an end before the second episode aired. A missed extra point and field goal in the Bucs’ first preseason game in Cincinnati (a loss) was all that head coach Dirk Koetter and general manager Jason Licht needed to make up their minds on their 2016 second-round draft pick . . . and the cameras mounted in Licht’s office by the Hard Knocks crew captured footage of the emotional conversation between the GM, the head coach and Aguayo.
"It's just such a bigger mistake to keep holding onto it," Licht said, just before speaking to Aguayo.
Throughout the episode, the scenes of Aguayo were uncomfortable to watch. Early on, Aguayo and Folk lined up to take some practice kicks, and cameras zeroed in on DT Chris Baker, who, while dishing out insults, accurately predicted Aguayo’s first miss of the afternoon (“Here we go, I’m calling it, wide left!”). Aguayo’s face twisted into a grimace, his frustration apparent. Kickers are only noticed when they miss, he says later in the episode—and he’s right.
Then came the first preseason game. Folk drilled his one field goal attempt, a 45-yarder. Aguayo went 1-for-2 on field goals, missing a 45-yard attempt, and missed an extra point. The shot of Folk grinning widely while walking off the field at the end of the game foreshadowed the roster move that was about to come.
It was obvious that neither Licht nor Koetter wanted to make this cut—to be fair, no NFL coach ever wants to dash a player’s dreams—but as Licht told The MMQB’s Peter King, “It was a bold move and it didn’t work out.”
Even though all parties knew the cameras were rolling during the tense conversation, the conversation felt far from scripted. Aguayo was clearly surprised and disappointed, based on the look on his face, and he didn’t hold back. “I let you guys down,” he said. Licht emphasized that this wasn’t the end for Aguayo, and he was right—the kicker was picked up by the Bears the very next day.
But the second episode of Hard Knocks wasn’t all about Aguayo losing his job—a smart move by HBO, because the ending was spoiled over the weekend. Here’s a handful of takeaways:
• Jameis Winston, the leader: The first episode of Hard Knocks made it abundantly clear that this is Jameis Winston’s team, and the very first scene of the second episode—Winston jumping around as he comes out to the cheers of the ‘Stick Carriers’—reinforced that. But what stood out most in this episode was how Hard Knocks took a more serious angle and focused on some of Winston’s leadership traits. Before the start of the game against the Bengals, Winston went around to each teammate’s locker, saying, “I got your back,” and during the game, Winston reprimanded two backup offensive linemen who were laughing after backup QB Ryan Griffin left with a sprained AC joint: “I’m happy y’all are having fun, but Ryan just hurt his shoulder . . . So keep having fun.” The players smartly didn’t respond. It’s the little things like this that make it obvious as to why Winston plays a crucial role in Tampa Bay’s team chemistry.
• Define The Relationship: DeSean Jackson and Mike Evans: Jackson, the proven veteran who rolls up to training camp in a $250,000 Ferrari, and Evans, a third-year WR on the verge of a breakthrough, are a receiver duo to be feared on the field. But to be perfectly honest, I cannot tell if they actually like each other or not. Do they only speak when they’re forced to communicate at work? Or do they occasionally text each other when they go home?
This week’s episode makes me lean toward the former. Take their conversation about LeBron James. Evans is a huge LeBron fan, saying that he thinks he’s the third-best player of all-time behind Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, with Shaquille O’Neal coming in fourth. Jackson says LeBron is a freak of nature, but he isn’t the best ever, supporting his statement with, “He had to go elsewhere to win a ring.” Enter Evans with the perfect comeback: That’s what you about to do.
• Gerald McCoy’s comic relief: Thank goodness for McCoy, who injected bits of humor into what was somewhat of a stressful episode to watch. Most notably this week, when Koetter brought in referee Ed Hochuli to help the players understand the league’s relaxed celebration rules, McCoy went all in attempting to find the NFL’s limits.
• Miko Grimes in all of her inappropriate glory: The wife of Bucs CB Brent Grimes, known for being outrageously outspoken and vulgar on social media, made her long-awaited debut 17 minutes into the second episode—and she didn’t disappoint. The Hard Knocks crews went to her house for an interview, and she dominated the conversation, going in-depth on how she’s her husband’s biggest fan. And don’t worry, there were plenty of swear words dropped throughout, because Miko Grimes, of course.
• This Games of Thrones closing is becoming a thing, isn’t it? This week, McCoy attempted to discuss the most recent episode, but Ali Marpet hadn’t watched it. McCoy, who clearly had something he wanted to say, held it in, instead demanding that Marpet watch it immediately after practice.
• Best quotes of the week:
“Can you get cut after the 53-man roster?” — Rookie QB Sefo Liufau ... “You can get cut at any time, brother.” — Winston ... “I’ve been cut on multiple different days.” — QB Ryan Fitzpatrick
“Hey Fitz, what was it like playing with Bart Starr?” — Lineman Evan Smith
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