Roberto Aguayo Still Has A Lot To Prove

Rookie Buccaneer kicker Roberto Aguayo has rebounded well from an early season slump, but he’s still got some work to do before Jason Licht can start feeling good about his second round pick.

One of the most interesting aspects of the Buccaneers 2016 season has been the journey of Roberto Aguayo. Since being drafted in the 2nd round the rookie kicker has been under an unprecedented amount of scrutiny from fans and media. Aguayo began the season in a freezing cold slump, kicking with zero confidence and often missing badly. Lately however he’s begun to catch fire, and against the Chiefs he turned in a career-best game.

Perhaps it was the Chiefs’ warchant that did the trick, because Aguayo hearkened back to his FSU days and was kicking with the same dead-shot accuracy and smooth mechanics that made him the best kicker in NCAA history. He went 4-4 on his field goal kicks, and on a day that saw kickers miss an astounding twelve extra points, Aguayo sunk his lone opportunity. Aguayo’s kicks carried extra weight this week with the Bucs red-zone offense falling flat, and as a result he was given the NFC special teams player of the week honor. Aguayo’s hot streak stretches back to the Bucs’ bye week; since then, he’s hit on 9 of 10 field goals.

While Aguayo’s turnaround has allowed many Bucs fans (and the organization itself) to exhale, there are still a few things left that he has to improve on. Had Aguayo not struggled early on, this current stretch would be pretty unremarkable.

Aguayo has recaptured his mechanics and confidence from college, but he is still yet to make a 50 yard kick as a pro, and his longest kick is still just 43 yards (which came all the way back in week one). This is a lingering trend from Aguayo’s college days where his deep accuracy often times left something to be desired. In fairness to Aguayo, he’s only had one opportunity to kick from 50 this season, though it’s unclear whether that’s by design or just bad luck. Either way, he simply must make deep range a part of his repertoire.

Much like pitchers in baseball, kickers can be prone to sudden and disastrous breakdowns in their games. Kickers like Blair Walsh, Kai Forbath or Dustin Hopkins will be on top of the kicking world one day and then in the blink of an eye they’re on the street looking for a new team. Along with is deep kicking accuracy, Aguayo has to prove down the stretch of this season that he’s immune to the low valley’s of production that have doomed so many of his fellow kickers.

Barring a spectacular regression from Aguayo in the final six games, Aguayo will be the Buccaneers kicker to begin the 2017 season. That much is given because of where he was drafted, but beyond that the Buccaneers will have a short leash if he remains the kicker that he is today.

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