The grand chemistry experiment between Jameis Winston and Mike Evans of the Tampa Bay Bucs is off to a flying start.
Stop them if you can.
The duo was deadly Friday night against the Cleveland Browns in a 31-13 preseason victory. Winston hit 16 of 25 passes for 259 yards and two scores in the first half. Evans caught five passes for 115 yards.
“I think there’s a little bit of a misnomer out there that there’s not a lot on Jameis’ plate, or that it wasn’t last year,” Bucs’ coach Dirk Koetter said Saturday. “If you’re playing quarterback in the NFL, there’s a lot on your plate. We had all that stuff before, but Jameis’ ability to recognize it – the clock’s ticking down – and get us into a different play, and then for all 11 guys to execute that play, that’s the trick.
“Jameis had two beautiful ones last night. The one to Mike, that was a check. We had a run play on, they actually came out in 3-4 and we were expecting nickel. They came out in 3-4, he went right to the check and got him. And then there was another one later when they showed a blitz, we went six-man protection, they showed a blitz that overloads six-man protection, a blitz they got us on in practice the other day, and Jameis got us right to the right thing, hit Mike for a first down. Those are two examples of him doing a great job. I wouldn’t necessarily say that those things weren’t on his plate last year; they just may or may not have not presented themselves.”
Winston is the third-leading passer in the NFL’s preseason, playing to a 108.5 rating. In three games, he’s hit 26 of 44 passes for 384 yards.
Evans is tied for 13th in the NFL with eight catches for 143 yards.
“Mike wants to be great,” Koetter said. “The numbers are the numbers and I think whatever (they are) – two or three guys in NFL history have had 1,000 yards in their first two years. But Mike knows he left plenty on the table and Mike knows how talented he is.
“He also knows we missed him some times. It’s our jobs as coaches – you’ve got these special talents at different positions, they don’t all come in the same box – so we’ve got to figure out how to best use Mike, Vincent, everybody else, and we’ve got to get Jameis and Mike on the same page on how best. How did Mike get used in college? Shoot, Johnny Manziel went back there, scrambled around for 10 minutes and threw a jump ball and Mike caught it. That was their offense, and they were great at it, so we have to take advantage of stuff like that.”
The Bucs finish their preseason Thursday night when they are home against Washington.