Matt Waldman’s Rookie Scouting Portfolio examines Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans’s red zone targets and concludes that Jameis Winston shouldn’t be the sole fall guy.
The Buccaneers struggled in the red zone last year. The common narrative is that Jameis Winston displayed poor accuracy and made bad decisions. A storyline that deserves more discussion is Mike Evans’ trials.
Football Game Plan contributor Gene Clemons noted Evans’ role in this debacle during a conversation after our recent podcast. A former wide receiver at Pittsburgh State and an offensive coordinator at a high school in the Atlanta area, Clemons says Evans deserves much of the criticism for not earning separation on catchable targets and much of the blame has been misdirected to Winston.
I went to Game Pass, filtered Evans’ tape to incomplete passes and searched for the first dozen red zone targets. Seven of these targets were accurate passes that Evans should have caught but there were notable gaps with his performance as a route runner and receiver.
To be fair, my friend Ryan Riddle counters with some great points about some of these plays. First, the fact that the Buccaneers are going to Evans on plays where a cornerback is playing clear outside shade is an example of sub-optimal playing calling. Additionally, debatable miscommunication doesn’t appear to have an option at all based on what I described: these are two clear in-cuts so the option probably isn’t there and Fitzpatrick is just making a nice decision to throw the ball away.
Still, we’re talking about three plays with four others where Evans can do better.
While there’s room for debate with 1-2 of these clips, Evans could have done more to earn separation or maintain separation last year. It was a down year for the talented receiver. While he has dedicated himself to earn more yards after the catch, I hope he made the red zone his top priority or it’s possible that Chris Godwin passes Evans as the more productive and targeted option in this vital area of the field.
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