TAMPA — After Bucs receiver Mike Evans was held without a catch for just the second time in his career, Bruce Arians shouldered the blame, saying the coaching staff needed to do a better job moving Evans around.
Needless to say, a day in which the Bucs can’t get the ball into Evans’ hands isn’t usually a good one for Tampa Bay. Evans had just three targets Oct. 6 in a 31-24 loss at New Orleans.
He has recovered nicely, however, averaging nine catches and 139 yards in the four games since.
With 76 receiving yards Sunday, Evans can become the second receiver in NFL history to begin his career with six straight 1,000-yard receiving seasons. The only other player to do that is Hall of Famer Randy Moss.
In 10 career games against the Saints, Evans has just one 100-yard receiving game — a seven-catch, 147-yard game in the 2018 opener in the Superdome. His 53.3-yard per game average against New Orleans is his lowest an NFC South opponent.
And Evans’ three lowest catch games all came against the Saints, all at the Superdome. He caught no passes on three targets coming off an injury in the Bucs’ 26-19 win over New Orleans on Sept. 20, 2015, and had one catch on six targets in a 30-10 loss to the Saints on Nov. 5, 2017.
It will help Evans Sunday that New Orleans cornerback Marshon Lattimore is out with a hamstring injury. Lattimore lined up against Evans on 43 of 53 snaps in the first meeting, but also double-coverage help on his side of the field.
The Bucs have since focused on moving Evans around the field more.
In the first six games, Evans lined up in the slot an average of 10.7 snaps.
In three games since the Saints game, he’s done that 24.3 snaps.
In those games, Evans has five catches of 25 yards or longer, and three of them have come from formations where he is lined up in the slot just inside receiver Chris Godwin. Doing so has allowed two of the NFL’s best receivers this season to use perhaps their best asset — their superior route running to pick off each other and get open no matter the attention they draw.
Evans’ skill at stretching the field and his physical advantage on most defensive backs will still prompt the Bucs to have him lined up outside often. But the so-called twins formation with Godwin forces defenses to play him differently and allows the Bucs to use their top two offensive weapons in concert with each other.
Contact Eduardo A. Encina at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @EddieInTheYard.