For Bucs, Winston-to-Evans has to be more lethal

by Gary Shelton on April 12, 2016 · 0 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs

Winston will try to complete more deep passes this year./JEFFREY S. KING

Winston will try to complete more deep passes this year./JEFFREY S. KING

Tuesday, 6 a.m.

It starts with a simple game of pitch and catch. If the Tampa Bay Bucs are going to be better this year, that's where it starts.

It's Jameis Winston throwing. A good amount of the time, it's Mike Evans catching. If the Bucs are going to win, those two have to be special.

"They're not blind to the amount of talent that those two guys have,” coach Dirk Koetter said. “The better those guys play, and the better those two guys execute, the better off our football team will be. They're not blind to that Even though statistically speaking,

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both of those guys had pretty decent seasons last year, the bottom line is still wins in NFL. For us to win, Jameis and Mike have to become a more lethal combination. I'm quite confident they will.”

Evans led the NFL in dropped passes a year ago./JEFFREY S. KING

Evans led the NFL in dropped passes a year ago./JEFFREY S. KING

To be honest, Winston and Evans are coming at the 2016 season from different directions. Oh, Evans could retreat behind his raw numbers -- 74 catches and 1,206 yards -- but it's deeper than that. Evans led the NFL with 11 drops and his touchdowns fell to three.

“I had some decent games," Evans said, "but it was a disappointing season on my end for sure. Even though I improved in some categories it was a disappointment, but you can’t dwell on the past.”

These days, of course, the two talk it up pretty well about how much time they spend together. But why would Evans have a chemistry problem with Winston a year ago?

"We've been hanging out more,” Evans said. “We're both busy guys, but we find time to hang out and throw when we can. I agree with (head coach Dirk) Koetter. Our chemistry was a little out of synch, mostly on my part.”

Although Koetter said the quarterback and receiver don't have to be close friends, Winston says it helps.

"There are going to be situations in a game where I have to look at Mike. 'I need you on this play.' And he's going to look at me at be like 'Jameis, come my way. I got you.' Developing that relationship on and off the field is good.”

Sometimes, chemistry isn't just about sharing the huddle. It's about measuring up to all that is asked of you. It's about having to be the best players on the field in your first and second seasons.

Evans spoke highly of Winston, and vice versa, a year ago. But Evans had a reputation of drops even in college. And consider this: Winston and Evans were the most accomplished guys in the huddle. With Vincent Jackson injured, there wasn't another place to go.

But you know, there is a reason that the growth between year one and year two is supposed to be the greatest a player has.

Winston's workaholic nature should pay off there.

"When you see Jameis for the first time you’ll be able tell looking at his body that he’s put in work,” Koetter said “I’ve said it before, when Jameis had the opportunity to go to the Pro Bowl and be around Russell Wilson, Julio Jones, Eli Manning and some other guys, that made an impression on Jameis that he needed to get his body in better condition for the offseason. He’s done that. He’s taken steps on his own to do that, not only with some people he worked with outside of our building, but working with our own strength coach, Dave Kennedy. Jameis is very perceptive about not only what he needs to get better, but what our offense and what our team needs to get better. That’s one of the things as when you’re around him more, he’s mature way beyond his years on that sort of thing.”

"It starts with the two of them. Oh, other things matter. Blocking and tackling. Running and covering. Rushing and blitzing.

For the Bucs, however, it starts with Winston throwing, and Evans hanging on. The best two players of the Bucs have to be involved.

For the Bucs to be better, it has to start there.

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