They are young. They have made mistakes.
Still, the future is in their hands.
If the Tampa Bay Bucs are to do anything, if they are to matter, it will be the quarterback and the receiver who must lead them.
Jameis Winston and Mike Evans, a pair of 22-year-olds, are still the most talented players on the Bucs’ roster. They are the past — the last two No. 1 draft picks — and they are the future. And despite Winston’s 15 interceptions and Evans’ league-leading 11 drops, they are the focus of a team that wants to rise.
“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, both of those guys had pretty decent seasons last year, the bottom line is still wins in the NFL. For us to win, Jameis and Mike have to become a more lethal combination. I’m quite confident they will.”
To be honest, the two are coming at 2016 from different directions. Winston was the Pepsi Rookie of the Year, a kid who took every snap and passed for more than 4,000 yards as a rookie. Passing and rushing, he accounted for 28 touchdowns. Evans caught 74 of those passes for 1,206 yards, but he struggled with his focus.
“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 Koetter. Our chemistry was a little out of sync, mostly on my part.”
“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 and 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.
With the Bucs, that’s Winston and Evans.