Saturday, February 17, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs count on Winston, Evans to improve chemistry as downfield threat

TAMPA — Shortly after returning from his nuptials a few weeks ago, Mike Evans began some "off-campus" throwing sessions with Jameis Winston aimed at improving the timing between receiver and quarterback.

But the honeymoon period is over for the Bucs' passing combination, coach Dirk Koetter says. Despite both players putting up enviable numbers last season, Koetter said Winston and Evans missed too many opportunities to connect downfield.

"When we get (Winston) back in the building, we have a long list of things we want to work on, starting with the deep ball," Koetter said. "We need to be more consistent throwing and catching the deep ball.

"I don't think (Evans) and Jameis ever really had great chemistry that you see a lot of the top quarterbacks and receivers in the league have. How could they? They're both such young guys, and they've been together just one year. I think as they grow older together, you'll see that chemistry improve."

Winston set a club rookie record last season by passing for 4,024 yards and 22 touchdowns en route to being voted by fans as the league's rookie of the year. Evans had 1,206 receiving yards, but his touchdown total fell from 12 in 2014 to three last season as he also led the league in dropped passes (11).

The Bucs had 139 explosive plays — plays of more than 20 yards — to tie for the league lead last season. But too often it looked as if Winston and Evans weren't on the same page of the playbook.

"In general, we have depths and landmarks we're trying to hit on the field," Koetter said. "And then the way the rules are written right now, the offensive players down the field have an advantage. How many balls deep down the sideline do you see that are either out of bounds or 5 yards overthrown? So our term for that is 'give him a chance.' If we're going to go to all the trouble to call it, to protect it, to get back there, all it comes down to is we've got to hit this spot and give Mike Evans a chance. We have a weapon with Mike."

Evans, 22, isn't blameless. He missed big chunks of the offseason during his first two years because of injury and has never looked to be in very good shape physically to start a season.

"I think Mike is such a talented guy, he just needs to be more consistent, more consistent in his preparation and more consistent in his work habits," Koetter said.

"I just think having a stable situation at quarterback, having the same offense in place, Mike had to go back to back with (new offenses), and I think Todd Monken as receivers coach will be tremendous for Mike. And I just think experience is the best teacher."

Koetter said he feels good about Tampa Bay's receiving corps, led by Evans and 33-year-old Vincent Jackson, who missed six games with knee injuries last season.

"I'm not a believer that Vincent Jackson is anywhere close to being done," Koetter said. "I think both of his injuries were extremely freakish last year. He happened to take a helmet right on the knee in both instances. Vincent is a fast healer. I think Mike is going to have a rebound year … if we can call 1,200 yards a bad season."

Winston has worked hard to get into better physical condition. He returned from the Pro Bowl inspired by the peak physical condition of Falcons receiver Julio Jones and Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. Winston, 22, hired a personal trainer and has been a fixture at One Buc Place in the weight room. Last week Koetter looked out at the practice field and in the predawn light could see Winston running sprints wearing a parachute for resistance.

So what benchmarks must Winston hit to show improvement in his second season?

"I would just say in our case it's got to be wins," Koetter said. "And everybody needs to win football games. But I said before, I really think for Jameis there won't be the unknowns.

"So I think him knowing what to expect, the preparation, the weekly schedule … we have a long list of things we want him to work on, and he's already started that on his own. But the benchmark is there's not a three-year plan or a five-year plan. We're trying to win right now. We've got to win games."

And maybe one day Evans can put a different kind of ring on his finger.

 
Comments
Jameis Winston is about to get a big pay raise. It will cost the Bucs more than money

Jameis Winston is about to get a big pay raise. It will cost the Bucs more than money

TAMPA – Jameis Winston is heading for a big payday with the Bucs. He's played well enough to make that an easy decision.But what impact will that have on the type of players they surround him with?The Bucs are expected to exercise the fifth-yea...
Published: 02/16/18
Bucs interview Brentson Buckner for defensive line job

Bucs interview Brentson Buckner for defensive line job

The Bucs continue to move quickly with the defensive line opening on Dirk Koetter's coaching staff, interviewing former Cardinals assistant Brentson Buckner.Buckner, 46, spent the last five years as Arizona's defensive line coach, leading the unit to...
Published: 02/16/18
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Jameis Winston investigation, Lightning trade possibilities, more

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Jameis Winston investigation, Lightning trade possibilities, more

It’s a Mailbag Friday as Rick Stroud answers your questions, including what will happen with the Jameis Winston investigation, who should the Bucs sign in free agency and would Warren Sapp make a good defensive line coach?Also, who will win more game...
Published: 02/16/18
Kevin Pamphile on Bucs’ O-line: ‘We’re not far from breaking through’

Kevin Pamphile on Bucs’ O-line: ‘We’re not far from breaking through’

Free agency is less than a month away, and the Bucs have several decisions to make about unrestricted free agents from their 2017 squad. One is Kevin Pamphile, who started all but one game at left guard last season but still split the job with backup...
Published: 02/16/18
Jameis Winston’s ‘Eat a W’ ritual lives on at Florida State

Jameis Winston’s ‘Eat a W’ ritual lives on at Florida State

Jameis Winston's pregame "Eat a 'W'" speech didn't go over too well the last time he gave it in front of the cameras and teammates.Before the Bucs-Saints game in New Orleans on Nov. 5, Winston formed a "W" with the fingers on his right hand and proce...
Published: 02/15/18
Browsing the Bucs’ needs and possible free-agent answers

Browsing the Bucs’ needs and possible free-agent answers

No sooner had the Bucs 5-11 season ended than coach Dirk Koetter identified the two areas his team needed to improve for 2018."I think we were 3-7 in one score games. You're going to have a hard time getting where you want to go when you win 30 perce...
Published: 02/15/18
Free agency preview: Brate, Humphries lead Bucs’ restricted free agents

Free agency preview: Brate, Humphries lead Bucs’ restricted free agents

NFL free agency is now just a month away, and as we begin the process of previewing the 2018 free agent class, we'll start with a less prominent part that is still relevant for the Bucs this year: restricted free agents.Unrestricted free agents have ...
Published: 02/14/18
Derrick Brooks to sign autographs at sub shop for charity

Derrick Brooks to sign autographs at sub shop for charity

A Tampa sub shop is offering fans a deal to help raise funds for former Bucs linebacker and Pro Football Hall of Famer Derrick Brooks' charity efforts.From Feb. 21 to Feb. 25 next week, the Jersey Mike's shop at 14839 North Dale Mabry Highway (inters...
Published: 02/13/18
The Bucs pass rush was so bad, Dirk Koetter sacked his friend

The Bucs pass rush was so bad, Dirk Koetter sacked his friend

TAMPA – It was friendly fire. The decision by Bucs coach Dirk Koetter to terminate a guy he's been buddies with for nearly 40 years was not an easy one. But defensive line coach Jay Hayes was let go last Friday, an apparent fall guy for the 5-1...
Published: 02/12/18
Updated: 02/13/18
Bucs D-line coach name to watch: former Colts DC Ted Monachino

Bucs D-line coach name to watch: former Colts DC Ted Monachino

The surprising firing of defensive line coach Jay Hayes on Friday is one that was difficult for Bucs coach Dirk Koetter.Not only had the Bucs picked up  the one-year club option on Hayes' contract, he and Koetter go back nearly 40 years when the...
Published: 02/12/18