It’s been a whirlwind of a season for the Bucs’ receiver position, between injuries, building chemistry with a new quarterback and settling into the addition of Antonio Brown. But through all of those factors, Tampa Bay has built one of the most talented receivers rooms and one of the highest-scoring offenses in the NFL to go along with it.
Wide receivers coach Kevin Garver spoke to the media on Wednesday. Read the full transcript below.
(On the addition of Antonio Brown)
“Obviously a great player, everyone knows his ability and what he brings to the game. I think that he really did a great job coming in and putting the time in, really a lot of extra meetings, extra walkthroughs, really handled himself extremely well from a mental standpoint. He really came out of the game with one mental error which, with one week of preparation, I’d say that’s pretty solid.
“The one thing that I love about him is a lot of energy, obviously he’s got a big personality but he really works at it, spends the time working on his craft every day. And really from the moment he got here, we didn’t have time to work with him on the field, he was able to spend some times with the strength coaches, just the way he approaches the game is what you want from guys.”
(On the challenge in getting Mike Evans targets)
“Mike is a phenomenal player, a great player, has done tremendous things since he’s been in this league. This is a new team. I want all of my guys to have 10 targets every game, I want all of my guys to have 100 yards and a touchdown but a new team, a new quarterback. Really our approach every day and what I’m communicating to our guys is that we’ve got to be ready when our time comes and we’ve got to focus on the things that we control.
“There’s one football and Tom does a great job of distributing the football and we’ve got to control (what we can control), as receivers, because that’s really all we can do. When it does come our way we make the play. We don’t determine whether he throws it to us or not so I think that’s really our focus as it relates to that.”
(On the possibility of Tampa Bay trying to get too many receivers involved)
“I’ve never met a receiver that doesn’t want the football, right? I mean, if they’re open they want to get the football. That’s every receiver, that’s every team, you’re going to see that for sure but I think that our approach, our mindset is, if we can have the best 11 on the field, we want the best 11.
“Tom, the way Tom plays the game and his approach to the game, he’s going to spread the ball out and I think that if you actually go back and look at all of our games, you’re going to see that. Sometimes it’s Mike’s week, he brought up earlier in the year against the Panthers, Mike got a lot of balls, then there was another game where (Rob Gronkowski) got a lot of balls and then against [Las Vegas], Scotty got a lot of balls. So to me, that’s just the way it is. Instead of just having one guy and we’re just going to feed this one guy, my opinion is that it’s going to make it more challenging to a defense because if they want to try and take one guy out of the game, we have enough guys that are going to step up and make the plays.”
(On how much better the receivers can be when healthy)
“We’re very fortunate to not be bit by the bad injuries. We dealt with some things that lingered and it almost felt like it was a different guy every week so I do commend those guys that had to step up and play, I think first and foremost they did a phenomenal job, but when we’re full strength it brings a different demeanor to the field, a different mindset and I think it can be challenging to defenses. They have to make decisions, how they’re going to play us and when you’ve got guys that can line up and everybody has the opportunity to win and the ability to win, it can be tough.”
(On his impressions of Brown as a teammate and person)
“My approach with people is that I allow them to determine who they are, so I don’t worry about all that stuff from the past. I’ve been with him for two weeks and so really that’s what I’m going to make my judgements off of and he’s done everything that I’ve asked him to do. We’re in communication every day, we talk every morning, we talk all throughout the day, we have extra meetings that we do and like I said, he’s done everything that I’ve asked him to do to this point.”
(On Evans’ performances being impacted by injuries or talented cornerbacks)
“I think that it’s a little bit of both. He played through that injury in Chicago, it was obviously bothering him, then as the weeks went by he continued to progress and was feeling better from a physical standpoint, but I do think that the reps are important for Tom. This is our first year still in this offense and he’s still working through that connection with the receivers and they don’t have any issues, I feel like they have a good feel for each other, but going into a week I think that is important for a quarterback. To your second point, when you are matched up against the best corners there are going to be some times where they win also, there’s going to be other times where the read doesn’t take them there so it’s definitely a mix of both of those things.”
(On what receivers can do to help Brady when he’s being pressured)
“We have different responsibilities and that’s different than the O-line so we focus on being where we’re supposed to be, being there when we’re supposed to be there, when the ball comes our way we have to make the play. That’s the things that we focus on as it relates to a receiver.”
(On what he’s learned about Brown that he didn’t know)
“He’s really a funny guy, a big personality, always talking. I didn’t really know what to expect but I’ve definitely seen that. He’s a smart guy, a sharp guy. You hear about all the stuff but I think that it’s been good to see it. He really works extremely hard so I think that it was more confirming those things about him and actually seeing it with my own eyes.”
(On how much Chris Godwin has battled through this season)
“He’s unbelievable. There’s not very many guys like him. I was very fortunate to spend time with Larry Fitzgerald and I feel like Chris and Larry have a lot of those similarities as far as their mental toughness but also their ability to push through those things but it is really remarkable what he’s doing. He had to have that surgery and you’ve got to catch the ball, you’ve got to use your hand to catch the ball, and when he said he was good to go I trust him. There was really maybe only one time during the game when I really saw it effect any part of his game so it’s tremendous.”
(On the deep ball miscommunications between Brady and his receivers)
“Definitely a couple of factors in those things. Chris should have been a little bit deeper in his play, Tom did have a little bit of pressure but Chris should have been a little deeper in that situation. Antonio, on his on the sideline there, the safety was getting with him and the corner was getting depth there. He read it a certain way, he’s supposed to stay on the ‘Go’ there in that situation. A little bit of both. The corner’s giving him a different look than maybe he anticipated.
On the last one there, I did think that Scotty (Miller) should have continued to run on that. He was maybe anticipating where the ball was going to be but on those three plays there was some pressure so I think that Tom was trying to get it out of his hand where maybe if there is a little more time for him he maybe has an opportunity to react in a different way but that’s football. When we look at that game, we all learn from it, we all have areas where we need to improve and we have areas in the receiver room where we need to get better at.”
(On Browns’ biggest strength)
“At 32-years-old I think he’s still explosive. I think that he’s still got a tremendous ability to run, I think he’s got great quickness, I think he’s a phenomenal route runner and catches the ball extremely well. There really hasn’t been too much that I’ve seen him not do. He can line up in all of those places and we move all of our guys around but that was the first time that we’ve had a receiver in the backfield so he can handle a lot of things.”