TAMPA — Early in Mike Evans’ career, the receiver he studied most was Julio Jones.
They were obviously competitors — Jones with the Falcons and Evans with the Bucs ― but they were like two artists who admired each other’s work.
Both have a big size advantage. Evans is 6 feet 5, 231 pounds; Jones is 6-3, 220. Both use their bodies like great rebounders in basketball to shield the ball from defenders.
Jones became the fastest player to 10,000 yards receiving, doing it in his eighth season via only 104 career games. Evans needs 699 receiving yards to reach the 10,000-yard milestone and has played 122 games.
Injuries have forced Jones to miss 14 games over the past two seasons and at 33, he is slowing down some. He had only 31 catches for 434 yards and one touchdown last season, all low-water marks for his career.
But Evans, 28, is thrilled to play with Jones this season. With Chris Godwin still recovering from a torn ACL/MCL, they could form a lethal duo, especially in the red zone.
“He’s a guy I’ve watched a lot over my career,” Evans said. “We were in the same offense when Dirk Koetter came here. ... Probably the most film I’ve watched of certain players since I’ve been in the league (has) been (of) him. He’s an unbelievable player, he still has a lot of juice left and he’s a great guy. It’s cool talking to him — add another great weapon.”
Jones was complimentary of Evans and Godwin. If nothing else, Evans is hopeful Jones will draw some attention away from him on the field.
“Last year we got injured, is what really what happened,” Evans said. “But having him, it makes us more well-rounded. It gives us more depth at the position. He’s an all-time great talent, so he’s going to add a lot of things. Hopefully he can take some double teams off of me. That would be great.”
Tyler Johnson flashing
Given the crowded receiver room, some good players won’t be on the Bucs’ 53-man roster.
Third-year pro Tyler Johnson entered training camp as an odd man out. He doesn’t contribute on special teams. He doesn’t have the speed of Breshad Perriman or Cyril Grayson or the production of Scotty Miller.
“Tyler came in in great shape,” coach Todd Bowles said. “I think he learned the offense a little more so he’s playing a lot freer than he was the last two years so this is a great camp for him and he’ll get a lot of playing time and we’ll get to see what he’s really doing.”
Player to watch
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Former Florida Atlantic offensive lineman Brandon Walton is making a big impression in camp. Although the pads come on Monday, the 6-foot-5, 300-pound Walton worked as the starting left guard both Friday and Saturday.
The Seminole High School star spent last season on the Bucs practice squad after being released by the Steelers.
Aaron Stinnie and Luke Goedeke also are in the mix, but so far, it’s Walton who is getting the most reps with the No. 1 offense.
“Well, we’re mixing it up right now,” Bowles said. “He’s tough and it’s a wide-open spot. We’ve just got to pick and choose our spots, who to put in there and get a significant amount of time so we can see everybody and make an educated decision. But he’s tough, he comes to work every day, he’s in early. He has good technique, he has a lot of strength, so it’s going to be a fight.”
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