Photo by: Getty Images
The chemistry and trust between Jameis Winston and Mike Evans were on full display last Sunday, with several of Evans’ eight receptions coming on improvised routes that Winston recognized and delivered on, successfully.
Perhaps the best example was Evans’ second touchdown, which gave the Bucs a 27-14 lead late in the third quarter. Using his size to his advantage, Evans pointed his finger in the air to signal for a high pass from Winston, who had fled the pocket under duress. The second-year quarterback floated the ball to his 6-foot-5 receiver for the score, like a routine alley-oop.
“It’s just the D-Wade-LeBron effect,” Evans, a known Dwayne Wade fan, said in open locker Wednesday. “I called for the “oop” and he threw it up. To make a throw like that with a guy in his face, that’s a good throw by Jameis. I saw him lock his eyes on me and then he knew where to put the ball. It comes down to practice I guess.”
Practice clearly seems to be paying off for the duo early in the season. Through six games, Evans is on pace for 194 receptions for 1,453 yards and 16 touchdowns, up considerably from a respectable year in 2015. He currently ranks 10th for most receiving yards (545) in the NFL, and that’s with having played one less game than eight of the top nine.
What’s more, Evans has done this all while drawing heavy coverage. Without Vincent Jackson (IR) there’s less for opposing defenses to focus on, making Evans’ ability to get open, in theory, more difficult. But credit the Bucs’ coaches for moving him around, as well as other receivers for making plays, Evans said.
Bucs WR Mike Evans – Photo by: Getty Images
“You know Dirk saw it, so we made adjustments,” he said of the 49ers double covering him. “I started getting more targets at the end of the game. [Moving around the field] helps a lot. Teams usually key on the ‘X’ [receiver]. I’m switching around so they can’t kill me as much.”
Added offensive coordinator Todd Monken earlier in the afternoon: “I think the better a player gets and the more comfortable he gets in the position he’s playing, it allows you the opportunity to move a guy around.”
And like Monken, Evans recognized his supporting cast for stepping up Sunday.
“Russell Shepard played great, Cecil Shorts played great, his stats doesn’t show, but he played great,” Evans said. “[Adam] Humphries did everything he’s supposed to do, and we have a lot of capable receivers. People don’t know that. If they watch us play they’ll see.”
Their next chance to see will be this Sunday against the 5-2 Raiders, a team that enters with the 32nd ranked pass defense. While Evans had only good things to say about Oakland’s cornerbacks – calling David Amerson “quick” and Sean Smith “physical” – there would seem to be an opportunity for the Bucs passing game. It also should be noted that the last time Evans was on the same field as Amerson, a former Redskin, was in Washington in 2014, where Evans caught seven passes for 209 yards – a career-high to this day.
No matter how the Bucs get it, though, Evans knows a victory this Sunday would be huge. Not only would it give Tampa Bay its first winning record since 2012 (other than being 1-0 this year), but it would also be the first home win of the season.
“We’ve got to give our fans something to cheer about,” Evans said. “My first two years here, we haven’t won much. So we’ve got to start a new track and win Sunday.
“I think we’re in a good spot. We’re in a division race, and we’re just trying to take it week-by-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: [email protected]
As an offense that is exactly what we have to do. keep moving mike around. H’es going to get a lot of yardage merely off of broken plays. The guys is incredible and will be scoring for us a long time. I think he has a huge day this weekend. That last play when he pointed up, I knew it was as good as a TD.
Everyone and their brother knows the Bucs want to run the ball or throw it to Evans. It worked last week because the 49rs run defense is terrible. I don’t know much about the Raiders but I expect at least better run defense. The best thing the Bucs could do is keep them guessing and off balance. This can happen with quick throws, screens, play action etc… But I’ll bet on the Bucs 1st possession we’ll see an obvious run formation and an up the middle run attempt on 1st down. Go ahead and count the defenders in the box on that play. I’ll be surprised if you can’t count 9+ people on your screen leaning forward. Hell, Dirk, take a shot on first down to Evans after a play action. Catch ’em leaning.
I’m pretty sure Licht will be looking to draft a WR to pair with Evans and maybe even a more complete TE to give Jameis as many weapons as possible. As much as I’d like to see someone on the current roster emerge as a second legitimate threat for which defensive coordinators have to game plan; at this point I doubt the Raiders’ defensive staff is fretting over anyone but Evans. Perhaps Shep will build on his day in the sun.
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