Expectations are high for Bucs first-rounder Mike Evans and the Texas A&M rookie is having to learn some things the hard way. After an apparent touchdown turned touchback on Saturday night, Evans vows his miscue won't happen again.
Getting selected in the first round of the NFL Draft usually means expectations for immediate production are set high. Long gone are the days of easing rookies into the league and one- or two-year apprenticeships learning from veteran starters.
So when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers drafted wide receiver Mike Evans with the seventh overall pick last May, his potential impact opposite bona fide star Vincent Jackson was instantly a hot topic.
The 6-foot-5, 231-pounder may very well live up to the hype – maybe even exceed it. But before becoming Robin to Jackson’s Batman, there are going to be plenty of rookie mistakes and teachable moments endured along the way.
That was evident Saturday night during the Bucs’ 20-14 loss to the Miami Dolphins, when Evans allowed a great play to turn into a disaster. After pulling down a Mike Glennon pass and absorbing contact from safety Jimmy Wilson, he raced toward the left corner of the end zone but came up one yard shy of crossing the goal line with the football in his grasp. That’s because veteran cornerback Brent Grimes tracked him down and knocked the ball out of Evans’ right, inside arm.
Instead of a 42-yard touchdown that would’ve put Tampa Bay on top 14-3 in the second quarter, the play went for 41 and resulted in a touchback that gave the Dolphins possession at their 20. It was a clear example of how important attention to detail is in a league full of professionals with their own, individual high bars of expectation.
“It was a learning experience, and it will never happen again,” Evans said from the locker room at One Buc Place before Tuesday’s practice. “I didn’t know he was going to make a play on it, but he did. If I just had the ball in the outside arm I would’ve been fine. It was in my right and if I was holding it tight it wouldn’t have come out. But I was holding it like a loaf of bread and it came out. If I had it in my left it wouldn’t have come out at all.”
Starting quarterback Josh McCown said after the game that he’s confident the incident itself is all Evans needs for the lesson to sink in.
“You know, I don’t think we have to have any conversation,” McCown said. “As unfortunate as it is, that’s the best teacher. Especially for young guys coming to this league, you want to tell them those things, and there’s nothing better than that. Again, it stinks, because it would have helped us win the game.
“But at the same time, if that’s Carolina and that’s a game that matters, then he scores the ball because he learned that lesson. But there is value in it and I don’t think you have to say much, he was pretty ticked off at himself.”
Two days shy of his 22nd birthday, Evans is the second youngest player on the Bucs’ 90-man preseason roster by about five weeks to fellow rookie pass catcher Austin Seferian-Jenkins. And not only is Evans young in years, he acknowledged Tuesday that he’s also a little raw on the football field. Prior to leaving Texas A&M as a redshirt sophomore, he only played his senior year of high school ball at Galveston (Texas) Ball.
“I started playing organized football since I was in fourth grade,” said Evans, also a standout prep basketball player. “But I stopped playing when I got to high school and then played my senior year.”
With 2 1/2 weeks left until Tampa Bay opens its 2014 campaign against division-rival Carolina, Evans is concentrating on the details now so lapses like last Saturday’s don’t worm their way into the regular season.
“I wasn’t comfortable holding the ball in my left,” Evans said of the play. “It’s something I have to practice, holding it on my outside arm – whatever sideline I’m on. I’m doing it in practice so it becomes a habit. It’ll help me in the games.”
Copyright © 2011 Pewter Report, PewterReport.com and Pewter Insider. All rights reserved. PewterReport.com, the official site of Pewter Report, is an independent source of news and commentary and is not affiliated with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or the NFL.