Why Jameis Winston is apologizing to Mike Evans

Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston talks with wide receiver Mike Evans on the bench during the second half of a Nov. 5, 2017 game against the New Orleans Saints. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston talks with wide receiver Mike Evans on the bench during the second half of a Nov. 5, 2017 game against the New Orleans Saints. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
Published December 20 2017
Updated December 20 2017

TAMPA — Monday night’s loss to the Falcons showed glimpses of the big-play offense the Bucs wanted this season, none more than on a 42-yard touchdown pass from Jameis Winston to a leaping Mike Evans.

Wish there were more throws like that? So does the quarterback.

"Every time I watch film, I find myself like, ‘Mike, I should have thrown you the ball,’?" Winston said after the game. "I’ve got people tweeting me, ‘Get Mike the ball.’ I tell Mike, ‘Mike, I’m sorry.’?"

Evans was well-covered on the play, but Winston trusted him on a so-called "50-50 ball," knowing the receiver’s 6-foot-5 frame and talent can stack the odds in his favor. Evans came down with the touchdown, his longest play of the season.

"You guys can shred me up for the whole year for not giving him that chance (more often)," Winston said. "I will take it because that’s the truth. … In that situation, when Mike is one-on-one or no one is around him, I’ve got to give him a chance. That is really on me."

Evans’ numbers are down, from 12 touchdown catches last year to five this season — Monday’s scoring grab was his first in seven games. He was the most targeted receiver in the league in 2016, but with additions to the Bucs’ offense, his targets are on course to be down about 20 percent this year. He said he would like more passes thrown his way but added he will do what he’s asked to do.

"I’m a team guy. Whatever is helping the team win," Evans said. "Obviously I want the ball. I think I’m one of the best in the game. I want the ball whenever I can get it. I try my best to get open."

Coach Dirk Koetter said he talked to Winston about trusting in his top receiver and taking advantage of what he can do with the ball in the air.

"I’ve had that exact conversation with Jameis," Koetter said. "I told him, ‘Hey, wasn’t life a lot simpler when we just went back and tried to throw it to Mike?’ There is just some truth in that, because Mike’s strength is his size and his power. … I think there is something to that."

Evans, 24, needs three more touchdowns to break the Bucs’ career record of 34, set by tight end Jimmie Giles. He needs 602 receiving yards to break Mark Carrier’s team record of 5,018. Evans will be back with the team on a fifth-year option next season, in line for a lucrative extension that should pay him around $15 million per year.

Evans has 839 receiving yards, so he’s well within range in the final two games to get to 1,000 for the fourth time in his four seasons. He would be just the third player to do so, following Minnesota’s Randy Moss (1998-03) and Cincinnati’s A.J. Green (2011-15).

"It would be a cool accomplishment," Evans said. "It’s something I’m supposed to do. I get a lot of targets. I’m a No. 1 receiver on the team. I should get that. Hopefully I get it."

Contact Greg Auman at gauman@tampabay.com and (813) 310-2690.

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