Bucs rookie WR Mike Evans has been a consistent producer early in his pro career; he's the first NFL player to have at least four catches in his first five games since the Packers' James Jones in 2007. Drafted No. 7 overall, he has had four catches in his past four games after five in his debut, and he has caught touchdowns in each of the past two games. He's adjusting to his second NFL quarterback, and as he recovers from hamstring and groin injuries that have limited him, his numbers should rise. He has missed one game with an injury and another on the bye week, but right now, none of his key stats (21 catches, 258 yards, two TDs) rank among the top five for rookie receivers. They're closer to the average for the 12 receivers taken in the draft's first two rounds (20 catches, 227 yards. 1.8 TDs). For now, the team's rookie receiving records — Michael Clayton had 80 catches and 1,193 yards in 2004, and Mike Williams had 11 touchdowns in 2010 — all look to be safe. Here's how Evans has compared to the other 2014 first-round receivers:
Name Pick Teams Games Rec Yds TDs
Sammy Watkins 4th Bills 7 35 433 4
Mike Evans 7th Bucs 5 21 258 2
Odell Beckham 12th Giants 3 10 106 3
Brandin Cooks 20th Saints 6 34 278 1
Kelvin Benjamin 28th Panthers 7 34 477 5
A DIFFICULT ROAD
Rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater had his work cut out for him as soon as the Vikings' flight left Minneapolis for today's game in Tampa. Winning on the road in the NFL isn't easy for anyone, but for rookie quarterbacks, it's especially difficult. The 14 quarterbacks drafted in the first round over the past five years are a combined 20-51 on the road. That same group of rookies went 38-35 at home, almost twice as likely to win there as on the road.
Along those lines, no rookie quarterback has won on the road this year. Bridgewater and Jacksonville's Blake Bortles both have a home win but are a combined 0-4 on the road.
Even the best rookie quarterbacks in recent years — Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III in 2012, Cam Newton in 2011 — got road wins despite poorer play. Griffin had five interceptions as a rookie, and four came on the road; Luck had 18 interceptions, 13 on the road. Newton had 13 of his 21 passing touchdowns at home as a rookie.
Those three, all taken in the top two of their drafts, went a combined 11-12 on the road as rookies. Take those guys out of the equations and first-round rookie quarterbacks are 8-39 on the road. The Rams' Sam Bradford and Dolphins' Ryan Tannehill, for instance, each went 5-3 at home as rookies but just 2-6 on the road.
Bucs QB Mike Glennon was only a third-rounder last year, but he found the same home-road struggles, going 3-4 at home as a rookie but 1-5 on the road.
Those 20 road wins by first-round rookie QBs since 2010 work out to less than one loss per NFL team, but of course, the Bucs can boast two such losses. Griffin came into Tampa in 2012 and escaped with a 24-22 win; Newton rushed for three touchdowns as a rookie in a 38-19 win in 2011 at Raymond James Stadium. (Bradford and Buffalo's EJ Manuel each lost in Tampa as rookies.)
WHO NEEDS PETERSON?
How exactly do the Vikings have a top-10 rushing attack when they haven't had Adrian Peterson since the season opener? The star running back has been suspended indefinitely as he faces child abuse charges, but Minnesota has continued to run the ball well, thanks to two players you may not have heard of: rookie Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata. Together, they have the Vikings averaging 125 rushing yards a game — 10th best in the NFL — and getting 4.6 yards per carry, the seventh-best average in the league.
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McKinnon is a third-round draft pick out of Georgia Southern; it was his touchdown with 2:57 left that handed Florida a humiliating home loss last season. He has rushed for 309 yards and is averaging 5.2 per carry. Asiata, who subbed in for Peterson in two games last year, has 250 rushing yards — just 12 fewer than Bobby Rainey has totaled as the Bucs' leading rusher. Add in a 67-yard sweep to WR Cordarrelle Patterson and you have a running game that has held up well despite three different QBs in the first month of the season.
Home crowds for Bucs games might not be what they once were, but with the Vikings in town, you can make a case for the relative value of distracting crowd noise. Minnesota has been flagged for 13 false starts this season — impressively, by 10 different players in six games. It matches the most false starts of any NFL team, as OT Matt Kalil has three, C John Sullivan has two and eight others have jumped early. Combine that with a rookie QB in Teddy Bridgewater and Bucs fans can do a tiny part to help against the Vikings. As a team, Tampa Bay is good at drawing penalties from the other team, tied for fifth-highest in opponent penalty yards at 69.2 per game. Minnesota is next on the list at 68.9.
WR Vincent Jackson 83
LT Anthony Collins 73
LG Logan Mankins 70
C Evan Dietrich-Smith 62
RG Patrick Omameh 66
RT Demar Dotson 69
TE Brandon Myers 27
WR Mike Evans 13
QB Mike Glennon 8
RB Doug Martin 22
TE A. Seferian-Jenkins 87
DE William Gholston 92
DT Gerald McCoy 93
DT Clinton McDonald 98
DE Michael Johnson 90
SLB Danny Lansanah 51
MLB Mason Foster 59
WLB Lavonte David 54
LCB Alterraun Verner 21
RCB Johnthan Banks 27
SS Mark Barron 23
FS Dashon Goldson 38
P/KO Michael Koenen 9
PK Patrick Murray 7
LS Andrew DePaola 48
KR/PR Trindon Holliday 11
WR Greg Jennings 15
LT Matt Kalil 75
LG Charlie Johnson 74
C John Sullivan 65
RG Vladimir Ducasse 62
RT Phil Loadholt 71
TE Rhett Ellison 85
WR Cordarrelle Patterson 84
QB Teddy Bridgewater 5 RB Matt Asiata 44
FB Jerome Felton 42
DE Brian Robison 96
DT Sharrif Floyd 73
DT Linval Joseph 98
DE Everson Griffen 97
SLB Anthony Barr 55
MLB Jasper Brinkley 54
WLB Chad Greenway 52
LCB Captain Munnerlyn 24
RCB Xavier Rhodes 29
SS Robert Blanton 36
FS Harrison Smith 22
P/KO Jeff Locke 18
PK Blair Walsh 3
LS Cullen Loeffler 46
KR C. Patterson 84
PR Marcus Sherels 35
BUCS : Out — LB Brandon Magee (knee). Questionable — LB Jonathan Casillas (hamstring), T Anthony Collins (knee), S Dashon Goldson (ankle), WR Vincent Jackson (rib), QB Josh McCown (right thumb), S Keith Tandy (hamstring). Probable — CB Johnthan Banks (neck)
VIKINGS: Out — TE Kyle Rudolph (abdomen, groin). Doubtful — LB Gerald Hodges (hamstring). Questionable — G Vladimir Ducasse (knee), S Antone Exum Jr. (ankle), CB Josh Robinson (ankle). Probable — DT Sharrif Floyd (ankle), TE Chase Ford (foot), CB Jabari Price (hamstring), S Harrison Smith (ankle), C John Sullivan (concussion), DE Corey Wootton (back)
How much of the Bucs' 48-17 loss to the Ravens did you watch?
What they're saying
Things look bleak in Lovie Smith's outdated scheme that lacks the talent to make it work.
Dan Schneier, Fox Sports
The Buccaneers' 0-1 mark over the past two weeks (they were on a Week 7 bye) matches the best record posted by any NFC South team in that span — the Saints are 0-1, the Panthers 0-1-1 and the Falcons 0-2. So, at least the Bucs have that going for them.
Don Banks, Sports Illustrated
The Vikings will see a familiar face Sunday as their former coach, Leslie Frazier, will be on the opposite sideline as the Bucs' defensive coordinator. Frazier pulled off the nearly impossible in the offseason when he found work with a team even lousier than the Vikings.
Kevin Cusick, St. Paul Pioneer-Press
The Bucs were off last week. They are at home. They are going up against a rookie quarterback. There's every reason in the world to think they will win. Except for one. They're the Bucs. Vikings, 20-17.
Tom Jones, Times Sports Columnist
Homefield advantage should be just enough. Bucs, 20-17.
Gary Shelton, Times Sports Columnist
The Bucs are coming off a bye, so they will be rested. The Vikings are playing consecutive road games outside the division. That's tough to do. I think Lovie Smith will have his team ready to play here. They make it tough on Teddy Bridgewater. The defense shows up. Bucs, 23-17.
Pete Prisco, CBS Sports
Somehow, the Bucs are still alive in the NFC South. While a run at the division is unlikely, their extra week to prepare gives them the edge in the latest reunion of a longtime NFC Central rivalry. Bucs, 27-24.
Mike Florio, ProFootballTalk.com
With OG Garrett Gilkey
Your red hair is long enough that you have to tie it up. When's the last time you cut it?
It's been about five years now. I just thought to myself, I look at my dad and my dad doesn't have a lot of hair. I thought it's not going to be long before I'm in his situation, so I'm going to grow it out as long as I can. Soon enough, I'll be taking after my dad.
You got your NFL start in Cleveland, and get to go back there next week. What are your favorite memories of your time there?
Cleveland's got a great fan base. It was really awesome having such great support from all the fans in Cleveland. It was great knowing my parents were able to watch me play. Those are some great memories.
You've got tattoos all over both arms, much like center Evan Dietrich-Smith. What was your first?
A Christian fish, on my back. I love all of them.