Former Texas A&M now Bucs S Justin Evans
Cover 3 is a weekly feature column written by PewterReport.com’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat writer Trevor Sikkema published every Tuesday. The column, as its name suggests, comes in three phases: a statistical observation, an in-depth film breakdown, and a “this or that” segment where the writer asks the reader to chose between two options.
Have y’all ever been to the Seminole Hard Rock Casino in Tampa?
Really, it doesn’t have to be the Hard Rock. Any old casino will do. I wasn’t much of a gambler until after my college years. Even in high school when some friends and I would get together to play Texas Hold ‘Em, my luck was so damn bad that I just never wanted to try to risk real money. Even today, I watch people play blackjack or some from of poker and just feel like they’re throwing their money away.
But, as of now, when someone asks if I want to go to the Hard Rock Casino for one night on a weekend, it’s hard for me to say no. The reason for this is because after college I found a game I liked. I found a game that really go the adrenaline in me pumping, and a game that I’ve had, well, let’s just say moderate success with, over the past few years.
The game is roulette.
I love it. It’s incredibly addicting. Observing the past spins, seeing what percentages of which color or which numbers have been spun, convincing myself that there’s somehow deeply embedded strategy to a game that is nothing more than the flip of a coin – I really only bet red or black, you won’t get better odds than 50 percent at a casino. It’s my bet, my call, all or nothing.
Justin Evans is roulette.
Texas A&M S Justin Evans – Photo by Brad Marquardt
Evans’ career didn’t begin in College Station. Before becoming an Aggie, Evans attended Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College in Perkinston, Mississippi. In his first year (and a starter), he earned first-team all-conference honors with 47 tackle, five interceptions (including two he returned for touchdowns) and seven pass break ups. As a sophomore, Evans made 39 tackles with six passes broken up and an interception. After JUCO, Evans transferred to Texas A&M where he was again a two-year starter. He finished his college career with over 250 tackles, 11 interceptions and 24 passes broken up between the two schools.
Evans has built a reputation that he’s all or nothing; hit or miss; a strikeout or a home run. Or, at least, that’s what he was at Texas A&M. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, on the other hand, are hoping he’s going to be more consistent than that – with plenty of those all, hit and home run plays week-to-week.
So, here’s the good. In his last nine games with the Aggies, Evans gave up just 19 catches on 32 targets for 107 yards. He also recorded two interceptions and six pass break-ups. In total for 2016, he gave up an average of just 8.3 yards per reception and two touchdowns. However, he did intercept four passes while breaking up another eight. According to Pro Football Focus, Evans had a coverage grade that ranked third-best among FBS safeties in 2016. To top it all off, Evans did not give up a reception longer than 14 yards in the latter half of the season.
The bad for Evans, is, well, where the “all or nothing” risk comes from. Evans missed 38 missed tackles in his final two seasons by PFF’s count (that’s a lot). He also ranked 219th in tackling efficiency among FBS safeties in 2016. He was 210th in run-stop percentage among all FBS safeties, and simply did not put the literally definition of a “safety” to use as much as he probably should have when tackling ball carriers in the last line of defense.
But don’t just take the numbers’ words for it (number can’t talk, idiot), here’s what some of the people at the top thought of Evans after watching his tape.
Texas A&M S Justin Evans – Photo by: Getty Images
“He’ll hit you, but he’ll also miss some tackles. He’s a very aggressive guy. It’s all-or-nothing when he comes to tackle and he also has good range on the back end. When you look at Tampa Bay, Justin Evans comes in, competes day one and ends up being their starting free safety.”
– Mike Mayock
“Soft-spoken but carries a walloping stick. Plays the game with an elevated sense of urgency and excitement. He is a little undersized, but has plus speed, is an extremely physical hitter and can play deep or near the line of scrimmage. Athleticism and ball skills might lead a team to test him out as a slot corner. Regardless of where he plays, he has the talent to become a plus NFL starter and a potential Day 2 (Rounds 2-3) draft selection.”
– Lance Zierlein
“His interception against UCLA at the beginning of the year was one of those plays that not many safeties can make. But I’m worried about his missed tackles. Hard hits are great for Sportscenter or YouTube but getting guys to the ground is top priority.”
– Anonymous front-office executive for AFC team
“Soft-spoken but carries a walloping stick.” That sounds eerily familiar. I wonder where I’ve heard that before.
The narrative around Evans seems to be married with the game film people have watched. But, as should always be the case with scouting, getting an opinion form guys in the business is good, but that doesn’t excuse you from watching the tape yourself. Let’s dive into some of Evans’ tape on the next page, really put him under the microscope and see if we can pin-point exactly why the Buccaneers drafted him where they did, and the potential he has under defensive coordinator Mike Smith’s plans.
Trevor Sikkema is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat reporter and NFL Draft analyst for PewterReport.com. Sikkema, an alumnus of the University of Florida, has covered both college and professional football for much of his career. As a native of the Sunshine State, when he's not buried in social media, Sikkema can be found out and active, attempting to be the best athlete he never was. Sikkema can be reached at: [email protected]
Tackling can be coached. He has ball skills and game speed (even though I was a bit disappointed in his timed speed at 4.6). tandy and conte (or Wilson) appear to be the starters so it looks like evans is going to make his mark on ST this year. open field tackling on punt/kickoff is generally a good litmus test for safety play.. personally, I’d play the hell out of him in the preseason. what happened to the Ryan smith experiment?
It’s almost as if Evans has everything you want that can’t be coached and still needs work on the little things that can be coached. He needs polishing, but I’m not nearly as low on him as others are knowing the traits he shows for a free safety.
I’ve always believed that intangibles were worth more weight than teachable skills. Our coaching staff can fix Evans’ issues but they can’t really teach him ball skills. I say run the veterans and let Evans get some field time on ST and in pre season to hone the skills he lacks. When his mechanics improve, give him a shot at some play time and see how it goes. Like you said, that’s a lot of ball skills and athleticism to be riding the bench all season…not to mention a second round pick.
He needs to stay on the bench learn proper angles and how to be a dog, Wilcox and Tandy are dogs the energy Tandy brings when hes balling will be infectious, When Tandy starts balling hes gonna bring that swagger in the back end just look at his face when he has his beats in with those eyes, hes out for blood and now hes been developed to be a starter. Wilcox will be an enforcer with big hits similar to how Goldson was on the 9ers. Keep Evans on the bench let Conte rotate in til Evans learns how to not miss tackles probably mid season.
Btw seeing those clips of him letting ballcarriers get those extra yards really grinds my gears we picked the guy in the second, always been taught my entire life football is a game of inches and its the guy who wants it more is gonna win. We need guys who love football
I think Evans loves football. He certainly loves making the big plays. But, Tampa Bay needs dirty work-Evans just as much as they need flashy play-Evans, even if he is more of a coverage safety.
He can’t tackle worth a damn. They call them ‘safety’ for a reason. It’s just the annual Buccaneers draft 2nd round disaster. No need for alarm. Tandy will be a really good free safety and we’ll forget about Justin Evans altogether in 4 years or less.
I don’t see the upside with a guy that struggles defending the boundary, disengaging from blocks, and has tackling issues.
Bucs can claim they like aggressive defenders (eg Kwon Alexander, Lavonte David). But both Kwon and Lavonte can disengage blocks and are aggressive in defending the sticks and boundaries which Evans struggles with. They don’t let the ball carrier drag on either which is why Evans as a strong safety is laughable.
You dont see the upside in a safety with great range and ball skills? Not to mention his better than average coverage skills? But yeah he gets blocked sometimes and misses tackles so he’s clearly a bust as a safety. Evans shouldn’t be a strong safety…which is exactly what Trevor said in the article.
He doesn’t have great range based on his 40 time and his poor lateral agility. He has ball skills but that doesn’t mean much because Conte has ball skills too. But if he bits on window dressing like Conte it means squat for a safety.
I do not see the upside for this kid even as a NFL free safety.
His tape says he has speed. There are is a where he made up 10 yards against an LB trying to get to running back at the line of scrimmage with his speed. He can fly, even if his 40 time doesn’t say so. The athleticism is measured almost everywhere else. Plus, he has great hips to play in the secondary.
He ran a 4.57 40 yard dash. That is not fast in today’s game. He was fast in college, I think he will be a step late in the pros. He gets his speed in college from reading the QB. In the pros, the QB will move him out of position to make the play and Justin does not have the speed to recover from that. I hope I am wrong, but I think there were better prospects on the board for safety. I think we are drafting safety high again next year.
Not only his straight line speed, but his lateral movement is not there. Throw in that he will be facing NFL offensive players that are not only faster, stronger, but taller than him. Those hits are not going to work at the NFL level and a lot of those hits at the NFL level will be called penalties.
John Lynch when he played was 6-2, 220 lbs.
Evans is 6-0 193 lbs. If Evans stays 193 lbs throughout the season I would be impressed but more likely he is going to be around 185 lbs during a season.
Contrast that to another Buc safety with similar frame to Evans like Dwight Smith. Dwight Smith was 5-10 201 lbs. But Dwight Smith also ran a 4.49 40.
Sorry, but I am in the show me territory with this Evans kid. I don’t understand the hype.
In all of the tape on Evans I didn’t see one targeting penalty. You’re just regurgitating things you have heard.
No, based on what I am seeing he has to change the way he plays and learn correct tackling form. Or else he is a walking penalty like Dashon Goldson.
Based on what you see you don’t see much. He has the playstyle, body, and athleticism to be a top flight FS. He’s not one yet because he’s a rookie. I know this is difficult to understand, but sometimes skills need to be learned.
Don’t ignore the good just to focus on the bad.
Trev, football is getting to be like basketball. Sure you have your true 7ft center in BB, but you also have 7fters who shoot threes. Is Spence a D end, or can he play L.B. and cover T.E.’s? Coaches in both sports have realized there’s no need to pigeon hole players into one position. You put your best five, or eleven on the field, and create match up problems for your opponents. So to answer your question, he’s all three. Slot corner, free, and strong safety. Let the offense guess what he is on any given play. Fans have been dogging this pick, but I think this dog when trained properly will be a valuable piece of our defense for many years to come.
Cool analogy Dude. How about comparing NFLer’s to Base ball players. Joe Madden ( still hate him for bailing) got the MLB managers thinking about players that can go anywhere on the field, ala Ben Zobrist (who I still miss).
I’m all for “swiss army knife” players.
This was a unique way to say it. I’m about it!
I think Evans is best when in space and when he can read and react. Whichever position that is, let it be.
He is basically a big nickel CB.
A project that will take time to eventually become a FS. The notion that tackling doesn’t matter for a safety doesn’t make logical sense as it is important for a FS or a SS when it comes to run fits and a one gap scheme. A CB doesn’t have to be an amazing tackler because CB’s do not have the responsibility of a safety.
No one said tackling doesn’t matter, only that all of his other skills made up for the tackling issues we currently see. He’s fast, quick, and he thinks quickly. It’s that last part that makes safeties great, not just their tackling.
Mark Barron tackled fine (not great), but he didn’t think and react quickly enough to make the game changing plays. He waited for a second too long, moved a moment too late, and he got beat time and time again.
Quick brain > perfect tackling technique
Hey Trevor, I will be honest, this guy was not anywhere close to my draft board. In fact I had never heard of him before he was drafted. With that being said and after checking him out I’ll say this.
High risk? You bet. High ceiling? You bet. Misses tackles? You bet. Be a great player? You bet your a**.
Licht takes these risks and they seem to pay off. I had never heard about Kwon before the draft. How is that turning out.
Of course all GM’s get lucky. Lavonte and Tandy come to mind. Was that Bruce or Greg that pulled the trigger on those 2.
Love your gambling story. Years ago I would make a annual visits to Vegas. This was before Vegas was turned into Disney Land.
After a particularly bad round of Black Jack I had 28 dollars left to gamble with. Passing a roulette table I put a 20$ chip on double zero and covered the corners of Double zero with 2$ chips. It was a classic throw your hands in the air like you don’t care move. Low and behold, Double zero hits. I wish I could remember the pay out (way to many free Jim Beams) but it was a lot. I do remember thousands of dollars involved. Some time people get lucky.
But being extremely blotto (way to many free Jim Beams) I lost it right back to the Sands. GOOD TIMES
Haha! That’s amazing.
The roulette table is the beautiful girl who’s terrible for me that just when I’m about to quit for good, I hit the jackpot.
I have made millions in gambling, but I chose another way called “conservative investing over decades”; which gets you there at retirement with no worries. In about 30-40 years from now you’ll remember those words from Horse and say “the old guy was right”.
Well each individual number on a roulette wheel pays out 35-1. Soooooooo….
What do those corner bets pay? I had not thought about that day for years.
That lack of “dog” is the reason I stated months ago, “anyone but him”. And that’s when he was being protected as a 3-4th rounder. I just don’t like timid on my final team. I am totally confident in the Tandy / Conte tandem. Wilcox I’d like to get to know and Evans needs to show me something.
Projected* and final = football. Need the edit button back!
I really don’t know what to do with it. Because it’s not like he’s afraid of pain. Just… odd. Much of Evans will be coaching. But coaching a mentality will be part of it. He won’t play if he isn’t all in.
I got my money on Buccaneer Red 😁, I hope they don’t try to start him early, maybe bring him in a couple games in the 4th (nice if we up in a couple games to do that). Just let it play out, if the dog in him can come out, we did good. Our safeties got burned a lot 2 years ago, hope he can help out. And I def prefer him as free safety.
Trev good article again.
Just FYI you forgot about the two green slots on a US roulette wheel. If you bet on red or black the odds are 47.4%. for you and 52.6% for the house a 5.26% edge to the house.
You can’t teach speed and he has it. Also has great ball skills. You can teach tackling techniche and if Bucs do that and he learns it, could be a great safety. I see why they rolled the dice on him.
Good article enjoyed it and the breakdown on Evans.
Excellent analysis Trevor! Soft-spoken but carries a walloping stick means he will never be elected to the HOF, but may be a GM someday. Roulette is okay as long as it is not the Russian variety.
Man am I the only one not so sold on Tandy? The guy played great for 7 games last year, but what about the first 5 1/2 years? I hope he picks up where he left off, but if I’m on the staff I’m not betting on it. I think Evans will be fine, What really bothers me is we shouldn’t have had to pick safety this year as Vonn Bell should have been the pick over Aguayo last year!
You’re not alone in your thinking cozart. I’m not yet ready to declare Keith Tandy as the answer at Safety. For some reason, Tandy was never able to unseat his rather weak competition to earn a starters role. When he did get in the game in the years before the last half of the 2016 season, he sometimes made a splash play, causing me to wonder what was holding him back from beating out free agents. Then the last half of the season he made a few splash plays and some folks here are ready to discount the reasons he was on the bench before injuries to others, not his play, elevated him to starter.
Now those same folks hear or read a one statement evaluation that Justin Evans sometimes takes a bad angle and doesn’t always wrap up a tackle and whatever other skills he brings are poo pooed.
Nowadays, judgement day is too often Day One. I say let Training Camp and the preseason games conclude before declaring the winners in the safety competition.
You’re definitely not alone. I’m not saying he can’t be good, but he isn’t going to be one of the single best safeties in football, which is what he was to close the year last year. And it wouldn’t surprise me for him to regress much further back than “good”. I mean, what’s more likely – that he’s more like the guy he was for those 7 games last season, or that he’s more like the guy he was for his 5.5 year career prior to that? I have no idea why the confidence in Tandy as a legit starter is THIS high. I’m hopeful for him, but this is crazy.
Keith Tandy ran a 4.51 coming out. People call Tandy “not athletic enough” to play the safety position and yet consider Justin Evans “athletic” and “rangy” who ran a 4.57.
Than there is JJ Wilcox who ran 4.57 except he is literally 20+ heavier than Evans and was a top 5 performer in the shuttle.
Chris Conte is 6-2 203 lbs and he ran a 4.53.
Not to be rude, but you’re putting waaay too much into these 40 times. Evans is more athletic than Conte, Tandy and probably Wilcox, too, whether his two attempts running in a straight line on one day of the year said so or not.
i trust our scouting & coaching. its a game of space. you need athletes.as far as playing time? let them compete. as dirk always says the best players play
I have reservations about lot things but overall I am very exited and the talent is better on paper than I’ve seen in long time. Also feel good about coaches. I’m more concerned about our O line and if Sweezy can play and stay healthy after missing an entire season than I am about Tandy at safety. He played great last year and the lass rush SHOULd be better this year. That will help all secondary look better. Also they are another year into Smoths scheme which is huge.
Tandy has never started and played a full season but I know this, every time the Guy does play he looks good. Maybe one of those guys that never looked that impressive in practice but always plays well? Who knows let’s hope that’s the case.
Also I can think of too many guys to list that were backups long time and at some point it clicked after few years….might be case here. Then again he might suck but I doubt it.
I can’t count the first 3 years of Tandy’s career. Lovie just did not like him. Go figure. Might be Tandy is a slower learner than most and took some time to grasp Smiths defense. So if Tandy is a late bloomer he has not been worn down by over playing him. He looked pretty good second halve of 2016.
About the O-Line and Sweezy. I wanted a lineman in the draft. And we got one that can catch the ball also. OJ can block. I can’t wait to see our RB’s running a left sweep behind OJ and the Sweez.
who says you can’t have a package w/3 safeties; I think Raheem had this package. It works for today’s offenses especially a team like the Patriots.
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