At the best part of the season, Mike Evans finds himself surrounded.
Evans, the talented wide receiver for the Tampa Bay Bucs, has been held in check for two weeks now. He had three catches for 38 yards against San Diego, and only four for 42 against New Orleans. After 10 touchdowns in his first 11 games, he has been kept out of the end zone for two straight weeks.
So how do opponents keep Evans out of the end zone?
“It depends on their personnel and then what their scheme is, but we are seeing a lot of hand-fighting,” said coach Dirk Koetter. “A lot of people try to hold Mike up at the line and not let him get started. And then even teams that aren’t half-field teams, we’re seeing more teams roll the coverage to Mike. And if they’re a single-high team, tilt the safety that way. If they’re a two-deep team, cloud it that way.”
Offensive coordinator Todd Monken also gave credit to the opposing defenses.
“The way the game plays out has something to do with that,” Monken said. “We still targeted him eight times and we’re going to still continue to move Mike around and target him because he’s a special talent. So, sometimes it just works out that way. He was still a big factor, got an interference call to put the ball on the one-yard line for our only touchdown, when they went cover-zero. Another time they got a holding call – Jameis (Winston) did hit Chuck (running back Charles Sims) – but that did add five yards on to that. So again, there’s some things we can do schematically, there’s some things that Mike can do better with his route running and his mental stamina to stay in the game and continue. Even the first drive, I think we had him – it was a glance that kind of turned into a post with quarters and we had a chance to hit him and we didn’t. So, (we are) just a little bit off in a number of our areas, but we’re really close.”
Yes, Monken said, Evans is frustrated.
“Sure, I think Mike wants to be a big part of what we do and he should be,” Monken said. “Some frustration from being held, from being doubled, from not being a bigger contributor. Not from a selfish side, Mike’s not wired that way to be selfish. Mike is wired to be a team player, but Mike believes in himself. And he did, even with the four catches he had, they all seemed to be big. Third down catches, low throws, so again, I think he stays in the game relatively well mentally, but the frustration is he wants to do more to help us win.”
Monken said the way the game is refereed has much to do with it.
“I think that’s the way the league is headed. Defenders getting their hands on you, how often it’s going to get called,” Monken said. “Mike’s awfully handsy himself, so we’ve just got to do a better job of him getting away from that and doing a better job of having routes that give Mike a chance to catch the ball in space, which we still do. There was a number of routes that should the coverage dictate, would’ve gotten [Evans] the ball. Now again, how many targets is that going to be when you’re running the ball as often as we were and as few as possessions as we had? I don’t know what that’ll be.”
Evans will try to break out this week against Dallas on Sunday night.
“They have been trying to stop Mike Evans,” quarterback Jameis Winston said. “When you’re playing against a team and their main focus is to stop one guy, it’s tough to give him the ball. So you’ve got to work with everyone else and the other guys have been doing a good job stepping up.”
Dallas is second in the NFL in run defense, but only 28th against the pass.