Jameis Winston to Mike Evans connection looking stronger

Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans goes up for a catch as cornerback Alterraun Verner (21) defends during training camp at the team's practice facility, One Buc Place, in Tampa, Fla., on Friday, July 29, 2016.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans goes up for a catch as cornerback Alterraun Verner (21) defends during training camp at the team's practice facility, One Buc Place, in Tampa, Fla., on Friday, July 29, 2016.
Published July 30, 2016

TAMPA — A year ago, QB Jameis Winston and WR Mike Evans were learning a new playbook together, but they weren't always on the same page.

Improving that passing combination has been a priority during the offseason and on Friday it began to pay off as Winston hit Evans on a couple of deep balls.

"Better than (Thursday)," coach Dirk Koetter said. "Part of that is luck of the draw on what coverage they draw, but Mike got a lot of balls thrown his way today. You could really see Mike going out of his way to look it in. I think he probably read all you guys' reports, how he dropped that first ball in warmups yesterday, and he probably had some choice words for y'all because you're going to be watching every single drop he has. But keep watching, keep watching, he's got a lot of balls thrown at him every day."

Evans led the league among receivers with 12 dropped passes last season but still finished with career highs in catches (74) and receiving yards (1,206). But his touchdown receptions fell from 12 as a rookie to three last season.

FEELING SWEEZY: It has been more than four months since the Bucs signed free-agent guard J.R. Sweezy to a five-year, $32.5 million contract, but as Tampa Bay went through its second practice of training camp Friday, Sweezy has yet to practice with his teammates.

The Bucs have only acknowledged he underwent a "procedure" that kept him from practicing in OTAs and mandatory minicamp; he is now on the physically-unable-to-perform list. It has been reported that his back is sidelining him. Sweezy declined to share any details of why he isn't practicing, but said he hopes to be on the field soon.

"Sometimes, things just go a little different than planned," Sweezy said. "I'm in that situation. Things are going well. I'm feeling good and getting ready to go."

Sweezy said he doesn't have "an exact date" but is confident it won't be long before he's practicing with the Bucs, who open the preseason in 13 days in Philadelphia and still have more than six weeks before their regular-season opener Sept. 11 at Atlanta.

"I will say that I am close. Just getting better every day," he said. "It's all good. I'm ready to get out there and get the reps. I want to start getting reps and play football again."

Third-year pro Kevin Pamphile has been working as the first-team left guard, as was the case throughout the offseason. He also filled in last year when Logan Mankins, who retired after the season, missed one game with injury.

PLAY OF THE DAY: Bucs S Keith Tandy had what coach Dirk Koetter called the "play of the day" when he knocked down a deep pass from QB Mike Glennon. WR Adam Humphries beat CB Johnthan Banks with a double move and was wide open when Tandy hustled over from the middle of the field to bat the football away.

"That was a great play by Tandy," Koetter said. "I just went up to Smitty (defensive coordinator Mike Smith) right afterward and said Adam made a real nice double move and was way behind the corner for that safety to overlap. That was good for Mike Glennon to see. He maybe hung it a little too long. That's a tough throw. That ball was about 50 yards down the field. For Tandy to show that range, that's unusual for an NFL safety to overlap and make that play so that was a really nice play."

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Brent Grimes also intercepted Winston on Friday in what Koetter said was one of the first poor decisions his young quarterback has made with the football in two practices.

Buc bits: WR Kenny Bell, RB Charles Sims and S Ryan Smith will compete to become the kickoff returner.

"We haven't got to kickoff return, we've been focusing on punt (returns) right now, but those three off the top of my head," Koetter said.