If I would have told you that the Bucs would have 38 points and 359 yards, yet Mike Evans and Chris Godwin would have relatively unimpactful games, you’d have asked how Antonio Brown made it back on the field. But Evans and Godwin combined for just 40 yards on seven catches despite Brown’s absence. Neither player scored on Sunday, breaking a streak of four straight games with a touchdown for Evans.

Evans caught three passes for 16 yards against the Colts, while Godwin added four for 24 yards. So why was the star duo such a small part of the game plan?

“A lot of soft coverage, double coverage around them,” Arians said on Bucs Total Access this week. “No need to force it. You don’t need to force it. We had them open some. Sometimes the reads just don’t send you there.”

I think Arians brings up some good points here. There were definitely plays where Indianapolis, like so many other defenses, dropped out their defense and played soft coverage to prevent bigger plays to Evans and Godwin. In the red zone, Evans was bracketed at times too, drawing double coverage. The Colts were clearly focused on stopping those two receivers, especially anywhere down the field.

Bucs WR Mike Evans

Bucs WR Mike Evans – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

But there were also a few plays where one or the other got open. Arians makes an interesting statement here, saying the reads don’t always send you there. It’s important for fans to understand that quarterbacks most often start progressions to the side of the field that best matches up with their pre-snap coverage indicators. In other words, if Tom Brady thinks the coverage looks more favorable for the called passing concept to the right, he’ll start there. And he’ll do that regardless of where Evans and Godwin are in the formation. That’s how quarterback play works.

However, if you’re the Bucs, the key is finding ways to consistently get Evans and Godwin in place to be primary options more often. In other words, if a concept will be favorable against an opposing coverage, find out how to get Evans or Godwin involved in that concept. That hasn’t happened enough in recent weeks.

Over the past three games, Godwin has 17 catches for 146 yards and one touchdown. Evans has found the end zone just fine, but has three catches or less in three of his past four games. With Antonio Brown sidelined for at least the next two weeks, the Bucs need more production from their top two receivers.

Right now, Leonard Fournette has 51 catches to Evans’ 50 this season. If the Bucs want to sustain a top-tier passing attack, that trend can’t continue. Even if Arians seems quite found of Fournette’s heavy involvement in the Tampa Bay passing game.

“He’s a 240-pound back that can run,” Arians said on Monday. “And usually he’s coming out the back of Mike Evans’ side. You know [Evans] is being doubled, so you’re going to have soft coverage. Those four and five-yard checkdowns turn into 11 [yards] real quick. Then he breaks a tackle – like he did in a two-minute drill – and it is a 13-[yard gain]. So, don’t force it down the field. [Fournette] is doing a heck of a job in the passing game. It was a nice catch-and-run on the touchdown and a really good throw by Tom [Brady].”

Bucs RB Leonard Fournette

Bucs RB Leonard Fournette – Photo by: USA Today

Ok, let’s clear a few things up here. Fournette’s “catch-and-run” was a 4-yard touchdown catch. He caught the ball, took a couple steps and was in the end zone untouched. Not exactly tough stuff, as the concept got Fournette the easiest touchdown of his life. Against the Colts, Fournette had seven catches for 31 yards. That’s an average of 4.4 yards per catch. On the season, Fournette is averaging 6.9 yards per catch. That mark is good enough for 22nd amongst all running backs in the NFL. Not exactly an 11-yard average there, as Arians indicated. Fournette also leads the team with six drops this season.

On Sunday, Fournette forced just one missed tackle after the catch. Considering how many one-on-ones he gets in the open field after the catch, that’s not a great mark. During the 2021 season, Fournette has forced just ten missed tackles as a receiver, with four of them coming against Miami, per PFF. He’s done a good job of falling forward through tackles, but the massive sample size of his career suggests he’s a solid, not great, receiver. This is not Alvin Kamara or Christian McCaffrey. If Fournette is dominating your passing game touches/targets, you’re not going to have a very good offense.

That’s not a knock on Fournette either. He’s been arguably the most improved player on the team this year. But there is a ceiling on his abilities that Mike Evans and Chris Godwin don’t share. The top priority for the Bucs moving forward has to be to find a way to keep Evans or Godwin involved, regardless of what the defense is doing. Both of them don’t need to go off every game, but one or the other should be more of a priority than they’ve been over the past month.

You can listen to the fantastic entirety of Arians interview with team reporter Casey Phillips right here.

Share On Socials

About the Author: Jon Ledyard

Jon Ledyard is PewterReport.com's newest Bucs beat writer and has experience covering the Pittsburgh Steelers as a beat writer and analyzing the NFL Draft for several draft websites, including The Draft Network. Follow Ledyard on Twitter at @LedyardNFLDraft
Subscribe
Notify of
27 Comments
Oldest
Newest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Captain Sly
Captain Sly
6 months ago

Great Analysis! However I think this shows that our coaching staff has adapted to what defenses are showing and not banging their head against a brick wall. The 2 loses against the Saints & WFT showed Brady forcing balls into coverage when we should have remained patient in the run. You might disagree Jon but sometimes the best play is a Punt.

Naplesfan
Naplesfan
Reply to  Captain Sly
6 months ago

His analysis stinks and actually he says just the opposite of what you are applauding, i.e., taking what the defense gives you and kill’em anyway with the other guys you have. Ledyard claims that if a team does what the Bucs do, they cannot have a good offense. This is the league leading scoring offense we’re discussing here. How can that not be good?

SMH

drdneast
drdneast
6 months ago

Guess whose responsibility it is to design creative ways to get Godwin and Evans open? That’s right, the same guy PR keeps lobbying for to get a head coaching position in the NFL. But NFL teams are seeing the same things more critical Bucs fans are recognizing. Lefto is leaning heavily on the talent of his players to allow him to be successful and not having to work to find more imaginative ways to free Brady and the offense. It usually talkes Lefto two or three weeks for him to catch on to what defenses have started to be employed… Read more »

Pete Wood
Pete Wood
6 months ago

This isn’t fantasy football. I don’t care about individual stats as long as we win the game. We beat the Colts because we figured out how to take advantage of their defense. Give the ball to Lenny. If the numbers for Evans and Godwin suffer, well, boo friggin hoo, we won the game. There will be other games where LF isn’t as viable of an offensive weapon and Godwin and Evans get to shine. It’s a team sport, y’all and different players take turns in the spotlight.

Naplesfan
Naplesfan
6 months ago

“If Fournette is dominating your passing game touches/targets, you’re not going to have a very good offense.” Hogwash! More of the same old, same old tiresome Fournette hate from the chief Fournette hater at PR, Jon Ledyard who opposed his signing and has dissed him repeatedly ever since. So let’s get this straight … the Bucs have the number one scoring offense in the league, and the quarterback with the second most passing yards and most passing touchdowns in the league uses Fournette as his top receiver in total catches … and that same Fournette was named Offensive Player of… Read more »

Last edited 6 months ago by Naplesfan
drdneast
drdneast
Reply to  Naplesfan
6 months ago

It does seem like Ledyard has a grudge against Lenny for some reason. Last year, when he was running timidly I agreed with him. But since BA has a come to Jesus meeting with him his whole attitude and running style has changed for the better. It didn’t take more than BA calling him into his office and speaking man to man with him in straigh talk. This is where you are, this is where you can be. If you don’t want to be what you can be and your unhappy, let me know and we can waive you. Simple,… Read more »

Horse
Horse
Reply to  drdneast
6 months ago

What?

scubog
scubog
Reply to  drdneast
6 months ago

Exactly.

bucballer
bucballer
Reply to  Naplesfan
6 months ago

Yes, u take what the defense gives u until u make adjustments. These adjustments can come in game or at halftime. If u have Evans, Godwin, and AB at WR and FOURnette is ur leading ball catcher then that offense will ultimately not get u to where u want to go against better teams and playoff teams. In order for this offense to reach its ultimate output, then ur 17 million dollar WRs have to catch balls! Fact. I don’t care what they r currently ranked. If ur running ur passing offense through ur RB when u have 3 All… Read more »

Captain Sly
Captain Sly
Reply to  bucballer
6 months ago

Going to have to stop you right there! You’re too hung up on names on backs of jerseys and how $ players make til You’re sounding like Larry Foote! Doesn’t matter how you win, just Win! It would’ve counted the same had Succop kicked a field goal or a Safety Sack in the back of the endzone. Best teams beat you even when they don’t play to there Strengths. Hats Off to Coach for Game Plan

bucballer
bucballer
Reply to  Captain Sly
6 months ago

U think we can beat playoff caliber teams without involving Evans and Godwin then u r mistaken. We may win one game, but ultimately u will need a more balanced offensive attack if u hope to repeat as Champs! U don’t pay ur two starting All Pro WRs 17 mil a piece to not involve them in the offense and just run a check down to FOURnette offense. U paid them that amount of salary because they have produced and caught balls. To not utilize them and find a way to get them the ball is asinine!

plopes808
plopes808
Reply to  bucballer
6 months ago

If said team is double teaming Evans and Godwin then yes, we can absolutely beat them by throwing to Fornette, Gronk, Scooter, basically anyone who isn’t doubled.
You said yourself, “ultimately u will need a more balanced offensive attack if u hope to repeat as Champs,” and that is EXACLY what we have in Fournette. It’s simple really, the defense takes away 2 weapons, you throw to the other 2 and/or run the ball.
We pay our 17 mil receivers to put up yards/points, but when the defense decides to go all out preventing that, you use your other weapons.

bucballer
bucballer
Reply to  Captain Sly
6 months ago

Ur disillusioned Captain! It does matter how u win if u have hopes of repeating as SuperBowl Champs. This offense is a good one. FOURnette is a quality RB with pretty good hands. He has stepped up his play indeed. But if u r going to get to the playoffs and SuperBowl then u will have to involve all ur weapons. This includes Evans and Godwin. When Evans and Godwin r balling this is when this offense is at its best. FOURnette has been balling but he can’t do it alone, not against the good teams. I mean we r… Read more »

PissedOffBuc1988
PissedOffBuc1988
6 months ago

Yeah, I’m going to disagree with you here and it’s pathetic how you continue to give Fournette back handed compliments. We’ve found a run game. Lenny is literally maturing right before our eyes. Becoming a leader. It wasn’t that long ago that Lenny was the phocal point of an offensive attack. He has the skill set to be an every down back. Just because Evans and Godwin aren’t getting that many touches doesn’t mean anything is wrong and that our offense can’t “sustain success”. Imo, Evans was out there more as a decoy due to his injury he sustained against… Read more »

PissedOffBuc1988
PissedOffBuc1988
6 months ago

Seriously, go back to Pittsburgh. You’re not as good at this as you think you are.

Pete Wood
Pete Wood
Reply to  PissedOffBuc1988
6 months ago

Come on, Schloprock, it’s an opinion piece. Jon’s a sharp guy and a good writer. I disagree with him today, but I’m glad he’s writing for PR.

drdneast
drdneast
Reply to  Pete Wood
6 months ago

I concur.

bucballer
bucballer
6 months ago

Most teams only have one stud WR with other complementary pieces. The OC has to design plays to get that stud WR open. In our offense we have several stud WR. If BA wants Evans and Godwin to catch more balls that BL will have to design plays and move the boys around to find the most favorable matchups. If Evans and Godwin r not catching a lot of balls, then it is by design. If Brady continues to throw to his check downs it’s because he doesn’t see others that r open. If there not open it’s because the… Read more »

drdneast
drdneast
Reply to  bucballer
6 months ago

Well said.

chefboho
chefboho
Reply to  bucballer
6 months ago

100% agree. You think the whole world doesn’t know to double and triple team Davante Adams, yet he’s always open. That’s what good coordinators do. They put players in position to succeed. Not saying Byron is doing a bad job, but it seems he’s certainly not scheming up plays to get your top two pro bowl wide receivers open enough.

eaustinyoung
eaustinyoung
6 months ago

Terrible analysis. We have 4-5 starting-caliber offensive weapons. There’s only 1 ball. Gronk and Fournette ate because Evans and Godwin didn’t. And guess what? Teams that can’t run the ball ALWAYS get exposed eventually. Go ahead and clamp up Gronk and Fournette, Atlanta. See what happens with Evans and Godwin. Fournette is leaving Ronald Jones in the dust as far as running backs.

Madman
Madman
6 months ago

Cover 2 shouldn’t be enough to shut those guys down. Find the hole in the zone like Cooper Kupp and other top WRs. Of course the dump off is open but Brady can’t always settle for it.

Horse
Horse
6 months ago

They were in the game doing what they usually do; this time they ended up as team players contributing to Lenny being NFC Offensive Player of the Week. You missed the part about being a “team player” Jon. It’s a team game! Geez!.

Ron Potter
Ron Potter
6 months ago

Good to see Leonard Fournette getting Jon Ledyard off the Gio Bernard bandwagon lol… even tho the compliments to LF are a bit backhanded smh… but here’s to hoping LF gets more multi-TD, 100-300 all purpose yard games that Ledyard MUST write a positive piece about bwahahaha

aredsoxfan1
aredsoxfan1
6 months ago

Offense looked just fine to me last week. Sounds like sour grapes from a fantasy football player. I thought it was great to see the team win in a different way. Hopefully they run the ball 50 times this week! Go Bucs!

plopes808
plopes808
6 months ago

Well I’m going to have to respectfully disagree here Mr Ledyard. Case in point “If Fournette is dominating your passing game touches/targets, you’re not going to have a very good offense.” Having the #1 ranked scoring offense in the NFL seems like a “very good offense” to me. As someone with Godwin on my fantasy team, believe me it is definitely frustrating. The thing is though, I’ll take a Bucs win over a fantasy win any day of the week and twice on Sundays.  Defenses are keying on Evans/Godwin, so forcing the ball to them ala Winston is not at… Read more »

scubog
scubog
6 months ago

I’m often simply astonished at what the residents of what must be New Bucville expect. Back in the day, just winning a game, any game, or being competitive in a loss, would be cause for week long smiles and good moods all around in the Scubog household. Just not being the worst team made us devoted fans proud. Now, the Bucs being 8 dash 3, the current #3 play-off seed, a three game lead in the Division, a top 5 offense, the # 1 run Defense, the NFC Offensive player of the week, dropping 38 points on what was supposedly… Read more »