What’s the ceiling for the Evans-Jackson duo?

by Gary Shelton on May 23, 2017 · 0 comments

in general, Tampa Bay Bucs

Evans led the league in first downs last  year./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Evans led the league in first downs last year./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Tuesday, 4 a.m.

The best combos come in pairs. Batman and Robin. Starsky and Hutch. Simon and Garfunkel. Ben and Jerry.

They play off each other, and they make each other better. Laurel and Hardy. Sears and Roebuck. Penn and Teller. Tom and Jerry. Waldorf and Statler.

On days when one isn't at the top of his game, the other takes over, until the lines between hero and sidekick are blurred. Lennon and McCartney. Bert and Ernie. Bonnie and Clyde. Sam and Dave.

It is with that in mind that the Tampa Bay Bucs bring you that fun duo of Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson, stars in

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waiting. Evans is supposed to complete Jackson. Jackson is supposed to provide breathing room for Evans. The end zones should love them.

They are new, of course. But already, the Bucs are counting on major impact for both of them as they attempt to become a better football team. And, granted, the combination is intriguing. The two have complementary skills. So far, the work has just begun to make them terrific. But the Bucs are betting millions of dollars that it will happen. They should be the best Bucs' receiving duo in the history of history.

Consider this: Last year, the two of them combined for 2,362 yards. If they had played on the same team, that would have led the NFL in combined yardage by teammates who were wide receivers. Their 16 touchdowns would have been second in the league. They would have 152 combined receptions, which would have put them seventh in the league.

Yeah, on paper, it works.

There are great receiver duos in the league. New England's Julian Edelman and Brandin Cooks combined for 176 catches last year. There is Oakland's Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree. Green Bay has Jordy Nelson and Davante Adams. The Giants have Odell Beckham and Brandon Marshall. Atlanta has Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu.

But none of them caught passes for more yardage than Evans and Jackson. Of course, that's on paper.

In real life? We'll see.

Remember the Bucs of a year ago? There were times when Jameis Winston hung onto the ball waiting for Evans to break free. Adam Humphries and Cam Brate were gamers, but neither was feared in the deep.

This year? The safeties better back up,

It is fascinating to imagine Evans and Jackson. The last three years, Evans has pretty much been the Bucs' go-to receiver. He's played games where he's had cornerbacks draped from his arms, and he's still made catches. Now, there is someone who can get to the end zone in a finger-snap. It should work. It better work.

Across the league, most teams concentrate on developing one great receiver. But there have been plenty of times that complimentary receivers led teams. How about Lynn Swann and John Stallworth, who both made the Hall of Fame?  Jerry Rice and Terrell Owens played together for four seasons. Issac Bruce and Tory Holt, Cris Carter and Randy Moss, Mark Duper and Mark Clayton, Andre Reed and James Lofton, Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison all worked well together.

This should work, too. Evans, offensive coordinator Todd Monken said, is a volume-catch guy. Jackson is a slipperier, speedier receiver who bites off chucks with his catches.

Oh, I don't buy the feedback that was directed at Monken last week when he said that Jackson needed to earn his money, that the team wasn't paying him for past performances but for future ones. First of all, Jackson would have been brain-dead if he didn't know this. It's hard to believe that Jackson threw down the paper the next day and, aghast, said “I can't believe they want me to earn my check!”

That's silly.

Here's how it should work. Evans is still going to be the first way this team makes first downs. He made 81 of them last year, by far the best by any receiver. But when Winston wants to get greedy, Jackson will more than likely be the guy.

"I've told him that, 'We have paid you a hell of a lot of money to be a (very) good player. … We don't have any old street cred that we're paying you. No. We need you to be a great player now. Okay? That's why we gave you the money.

"You came here because of the money. Don't give me all that bull about you came here because of the weather and Jameis. No. You came here because we paid you the most. You need to play like that. He gets that. He's smart enough to understand that."

The Bucs have had decent receiving combos before. They had Keyshawn Johnson and Keenan McCardell (with Joe Jurevicius as the third-down receiver) when they won the Super Bowl. Bruce Hill and Mark Carrier weren't bad.

But nothing should be able to compete with Winston and Jackson, the sizzle and the smoke of the new Bucs offense.

All they have to do is take their play off the paper and onto the grass.

If it works, it will be a sight to see.

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