Just two years into his NFL career, Bucs wide receiver Mike Evans can look back at his collective performance knowing he’s accomplished quite a bit.
Back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, 15 total touchdowns, eight 100-yard games, three multi-touchdown games, and he’s only 22 years old.
What Evans hasn’t been able to do is put together a big game against three-time defending NFC South champ Carolina. In three career games he’s combined to catch 10 of 25 targets for 82 yards and one touchdown.
Attempt number four comes Sunday in Charlotte, where he’ll likely be receiving plenty of attention from Pro Bowl cornerback Josh Norman.
“I’m excited for it,” Evans said of the matchup. “I don’t know if I’ll see him or not. The first game he didn’t match me. In this game I hope he does, it’ll be a fun game for me our last game this year. They play a lot of Cover 3 and zone but they play a little bit of man, so maybe I’ll see him.”
Norman spent the bulk of his time opposite Vincent Jackson during Carolina’s 37-23 Week 4 win in Tampa Bay, racking up two of the Panthers’ four interceptions on the day and returning the first 46 yards to the end zone. With Jackson joining Louis Murphy on injured reserve, the latter of whom lasted until blowing out his knee Week 7 in Washington, Evans is by far Tampa Bay’s most dangerous receiving threat on the field.
The young receiver praised Norman and Carolina’s defensive backfield Thursday but said what makes the unit thrive is constant pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
“They’re really good,” Evans said. “Their front seven helps a lot as well. Those guys on the back end can play but their front seven is really the key. They’re some beasts.”
One of those aforementioned beasts is middle linebacker Luke Kuechly, who sat out the earlier game in Tampa Bay with a concussion. Speaking to the Tampa Bay media on a conference call Thursday afternoon, the two-time All-Pro said limiting a player like Evans requires an all-around defensive effort.
“We just have to know where he is,” Kuechly said. “Obviously he’s kind of a lot like Kelvin [Benjamin] – a big, athletic, strong guy that can run. But you’ve got to really figure out where he is. You can’t let him sneak around, you’ve got to identify where he is and make sure you know that if he’s in the slot he runs this route, if he’s at the backside X he might run this. So you just have got to know where he is and make sure we’re communicating, because with a guy like him, you let him get open he’s going to catch it and make something happen.”