Evans hopes to make the grade for Bucs

by Gary Shelton on July 28, 2017 · 0 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs

Evans wants to improve his yards after completion./JEFFREY S. KING

Evans wants to improve his yards after completion./JEFFREY S. KING

Friday, 4 a.m.

When he was 21, it was a very good year.

Mike Evans kicked the doors in on the NFL. Right out of the box, he had 68 catches, and he gained 1,051 yards despite dodgy quarterbacks. He scored 12 touchdowns. You might say he jumped right to the head of the class.

Well, no.

“A B-minus,” Evans said.

Yeah, but how about his second year? Sure, Evans dropped a few passes, but he caught 74 of them, and his yards went to 1,206. Even though his touchdowns fell off, it was a honor roll type of performance.

“A C-minus,” Evans said.

Then there was last year. It was a Pro Bowl season. He restored his touchdown catches to 12, and he was more sure-handed. In all, he caught 96 balls for 1,321 yards. Sure, that got him on the Dean's List, didn't it?

“A B-plus,” he said.

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Evans wants to be even better in year four.

Others would probably give Evans higher marks. Think about it. A guy comes into the league, and in three seasons, he catches 238 passes for 3,578 yards and 27 scores. Yet, as he stands in the front of media and, answering a question from GarySheltonsports.com, he sounds disappointed with his self-given marks.

“I’m going to improve,” Evans said. “I will improve. I’m feeling stronger and I’m getting older and more mature. The game is slowing down each year. So, I’m just looking to improve to get on that ‘A’ grade.”

In a lot of ways, the Tampa Bay Bucs are a lot like Evans. They've improved from two wins to six to nine, and yet, no one around the building seems satisfied. Perhaps that's the mantra. You haven't seen anything yet, because this team hasn't done anything yet.

“I feel the same way,” Evans said. “We haven’t won anything yet. We haven’t been to the playoffs in my three years here, going on year four. But, that’s the goal every year, to make the playoffs. I see why there’s a lot of excitement; we have a really good team and a really good roster. So hopefully we all stay healthy and put in the work and we can reach our goal which is the playoffs. In the tournament, anything can happen.”

Evans takes a stab at how long it has been since the Bucs made the playoffs. 2010? No, he was told. It was 2007. A decade ago.

Maybe, then, it takes an A effort from Evans. That effort, of course, would come with more Yards After Catch, a stat Evans seems to be intent on improving. More man coverage would help make that possible.

"I’ve said it plenty of times.," Evans said. "I want to get better at ‘YAC’[yards after completion]. I didn’t have much opportunity last year because guys were always around me. So, what’s the point of me getting one extra yard? So, I’m trying to improve on that aspect, the ‘YAC’, and I think that will improve the team a lot.

“Yeah, we have a lot to prove. We’re good on paper, but we’ve got to do it.”

Maybe it's possible. Quarterback Jameis Winston has thrown for more than 8,000 yards in his first two seasons. This year, with more weapons, his receivers should be able to get more separation.

“I mean, he’s going on year three and he’s already one of the best quarterbacks in the league in my eyes,” Evans said. “He will only improve in time. Giving him these new weapons, he’s going to be an even better player than he already is. He’s just a great leader' we love being around him. We love his attitude, and his preparation for the game is second to none. He’s going to be a great player for a long, long time and this year he is going to explode I think.”

“He has good arm talent, so he likes to makes those throws. I mean, guys will be open more I’m sure. But, we’ll see.”

Then there is his new teammate DeSean Jackson:

“He’s a beast,” Evans said. “He’s one of the best deep ball threats this league has seen. Behind guys like Randy Moss. ‘D-Jack’ (Jackson) is one of the most explosive players to ever play. He’s so small, but he just gets the job done because he beats you down the field.”

On guard J.R. Sweezy, who was out all of last season: “He’s mean, too. I’m looking forward to seeing him play. Just his demeanor and how physical he is (demonstrates how mean). He has to pull up on guys because we don’t have pads on. But, when he gets pads on, I don’t want to be in his way.”

On linebacker Kwon Alexander: “Kwon Alexander’s drive is his passion. He loves the game of football. He flies around and he’s undersized. They say he’s undersized, but he’s not that small. That’s a lot of guys on our team; we don’t have that big of a market yet. But when we start winning more ... it’s starting to improve already. We had our first winning season in a long time. That will improve with winning, guys will start getting the recognition they deserve. Kwon Alexander is one of the top linebackers in the game in my opinion.”

On receiver Chris Godwin: “He didn’t surprise me. I’ve watched him a little bit at Penn State; good deep ball threat. He’s bigger than people think; he’s close to my height. He’s a big guy. He can catch the ball real well, and he’s smooth in his route running. Coach Monken is going to just enhance his game and take it to the next level.”

On tight end O.J. Howard: Just play football. That’s what the vets told me, so that’s what I did, and that’s what he’s going to do. He impressed a lot of people, including myself, in OTAs. He’s big, he can run and he’s super fast. He has like some wiggle to him. I haven’t seen him with the pads on blocking yet, but as a pass catcher he’s legit.”

Then there is Evans. He's still studying, he's still learning. Ahead, there are more tests.

The Bucs begin their training camp this morning.





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