With 13 receptions for 174 yards and zero touchdowns, Mike Evans certainly hasn’t had the start to the season many expected following a sensational rookie year. But it’s too early to start crying sophomore slump, as the new offense is still developing an identity and finding ways to get the ball into playmakers’ hands.
“We just need to get Mike started,” offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter said Wednesday. “He’s fine, we just need to get him started. We threw him a bunch of balls in Houston (17 targets) and we were inconsistent throwing and catching in that game. He missed some practice time and the first game (with an injured hamstring). We just have to get him started.”
Ironically, the game in Houston where Evans had the most targets and receptions – 17 and 7, respectively – was during the Bucs least productive offensive outing over the last three weeks (318 yards). Since then, Tampa Bay has rushed for over 100 yards in back-to-back games, while favoring different matchups in the limited passing game.
One reason for Evans slow start could simply be because the Bucs are finding other ways to have success.
“When you have multiple guys who need touches, it doesn’t always work out perfect,” Koetter said. “We have to do what we have to do to win games. We have two good guys on the outside. Austin (Seferian-Jenkins) is down, other guys have to step up inside. And we ran the ball well against Jacksonville.”
That said, the former Aggies star is one of the team’s greatest threats. While Koetter and head coach Lovie Smith are pleased with the direction the offense is heading, they know it’s time for their 1,000-yard receiver to emerge and resemble his production from 2014.
“We need Mike to come,” Smith said. “For our football team, we like what we’re seeing as far as the direction we’re going offensively. But to be able to add Mike Evans best ball to that – that’s exciting.”
For what it’s worth, Evans had just 17 receptions for 203 yards and one touchdown at this point of the season last year, before going on to catch 68 passes for 1,051. Maybe it just takes a few weeks to built a rapport with his quarterback and find rhythm in a new offense.
Coming off a bye in Week 6, Smith is confident that a healthy and refreshed Evans will come back stronger.
“Sometimes it takes you a while, for whatever reason. Injuries can stop that progress a little bit,” Smith said. “But Mike is healthy now, getting away from ball (with the bye week) and now getting a chance to start new with everyone – he’s a great player and we need him to play that way each week.”
Zach is entering his 3rd year covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a writer for PewterReport.com. Since 2014, he's handled a large part of the beat reporting responsibilities at PR, attending all media gatherings and publishing and promoting content daily. Zach is a native of Sarasota, FL, and a graduate of the University of Tampa. He has also covered high school football for the Tampa Tribune and the NFL for Pro Player Insiders.
Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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