A year ago, he took the NFL by storm.
These days, the dark clouds are hovering over Mike Evans.
Evans is off to a slow start for the Tampa Bay Bucs in 2015, partially because of injury and partially because of a new quarterback. But as he revisits Washington, the team he was toughest on as a rookie, it might be his time.
Evans caught seven passes for 209 yards against the Redskins last year. It was part of his 68-catch, 1,051-yard season.
This year, however, Evans has caught only 13 balls for only 174 yards.
“We need Mike to come [along],” coach Lovie Smith said. “But for our football team we like what we’re seeing as far as the direction we’re going offensively. To be able to add Mike Evans’ best ball to that, yeah, that’s exciting too. Sometimes it’ll take you awhile for whatever reason. Injuries can hold you, they can stop that progress a little bit. Mike is healthy now – getting away from ball, getting a chance to start anew with everyone. He’s a great player and we need him to play that way each week.”
After five games last year, Evans had 21 catches for 258 yards. This year, he has naturally attracted more attention.
“There is only so much you can do really,” Smith said. “You can sugarcoat it all you’d like. You can roll-up, double-cover a guy, but you can’t do that very often. You are hurting yourself somewhere else. Most of the time, the receiver is going to be in a one-on-one situation outside. That’s where we have to be able to win.”
At first, the combination of Jameis Winston and Evans was an exciting prospect. However, they have yet to fully click.
“We just need to get Mike started,” said offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter. “He’s fine. We just need to get him started. He missed that first game, [we] threw him a bunch of balls in the Houston game and we were inconsistent throwing and catching [in] that game, he missed some practice time – we just need to get him started. When you have multiple guys that need touches, it doesn’t always work out perfect.
“I’m sure Mike is a little bit frustrated. It is what it is. We’ve been down this road before with other guys. We’ve just got to get him started. There is nothing he is doing wrong. He’s playing hard, he’s practicing hard.”
Once, the Bucs’ Michael Clayton had a good first year, but was never able to repeat it. The Bucs say that will not be the case with Evans.
“We worked a lot over the summer, so we definitely have a chemistry,” said Winston. “I’m definitely going to try to give him the ball more, but, I mean, some things work and some things don’t. It’s football. He had a big year last year and people are focusing on stopping Mike. That’s the big thing.”
As for Evans, he says he just needs to stick with it and wait for his turn. And that there will be more games like last year.
“It was a great game for me,” Evans said. “It showed my ability to be able to take over games and things like that and it showed my ability at the receiver position, but they’re a different defense this year – a lot of guys injured, they play different schemes and things like that. It will be a challenge for us, but it’s nothing we can’t handle.”