TAMPA — There was a time when Mike Evans was known for having a big body and a bigger mouth. While he still likes to talk on the field, defensive backs aren't responding because they're too worried about being beaten by the Bucs' receiver.
Evans is sixth in the NFL in receiving with 21 receptions for 301 yards and tied for second with three touchdowns.
"He's a talented guy," said Broncos Pro Bowl CB Aqib Talib. "Big, fast, he goes in that Calvin Johnson category, that Julio Jones category. The big, fast guys (with) the big catch radius. His quarterback definitely trusts him. His quarterback gives him opportunities to make plays.
"With receivers, there are some guys where you either have this huge catch radius or you don't. There's nothing you can learn in the NFL. If you go watch Evans' tape from seventh or eighth grade, I bet he's doing the same thing, catching jump balls, running past people, catching deep balls. It's just that catch radius that makes him special."
Evans has toned down the volume this season. His first two seasons, he drew his share of unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. This year, he is in the shape of his career. Talib and Pro Bowl CB Chris Harris will take turns blanketing Evans today. Evans says he needs to be more physical than the Broncos defensive backs.
"I watched some film, they're both really physical at the line of scrimmage," Evans said. "So I've got to be as physical as those guys. They're two Pro Bowl guys, so I like the challenge."
Evans has been impressed with Talib.
"At the line of scrimmage, he's so physical," Evans said. "He's a lot like (Arizona cornerback) Patrick Peterson at the line, both really physical. I don't think he runs as good as 'Pat P,' but he's just as physical at the line of scrimmage."
The outcome today might depend on how much hand-fighting will be allowed by referees.
"I like it," Evans said of the matchup with the Broncos defensive backs. "No matter what, I'm going to try and be the most physical receiver in the league and I've got to prove it by going out and dominating physical cornerbacks."
WINSTON SACKED WINSTON: Perhaps the biggest play in last Sunday's 37-32 loss to the Rams was the sack/fumble caused by DE Robert Quinn that was returned for a touchdown. Most probably believed LT Donovan Smith was beaten on the pass rush. But Winston took too deep of a pass drop and punctured the pocket.
"He was too deep, yes," Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said. "We try to stay under 10 yards when it's the equivalent of a seven-step drop, but it's shotgun, plus five. You try to stay under 10 yards, Jameis got about 10-and-a-half and believe it or not, there's some geometry involved there, as far the angles that the tackles are protecting, so the guards in the center set the depth of the packet and the tackles set the width of the tackles. When you get too deep, that has a tendency to happen. If the quarterback can feel it, he can step up, but he's looking down the field, so he just didn't feel it on that one."
GO FOR TWO: With rookie kicker Roberto Aguayo missing kicks, the Bucs may have to attempt more two-point conversions. They were 0-for-2 against the Rams. But it's not a specialty play. The Bucs have a package of plays they use on the goal line and simply choose from them for the two-point try.
"We usually try to carry about four of those type of plays in a game, but we never save them," Koetter said. "If they come up third and 2 from the 2, we're going to use it and then we're going to drop our two-point ones down. I know what the percentages say, but those two-point plays are hard, they're hard to get. Obviously we didn't do a good enough job at them last week, they could've made a difference for us."