Buccaneers seemingly Pro Bowl-bound wide receiver Mike Evans has had a rough couple of games the last two weeks, catching just seven passes for 80 yards and no touchdowns.
It’s the worst two-game stretch for Evans since Week 4 and 5 of the 2015 season, when he caught just six passes for 73 yards and no touchdowns in a pair of games against Carolina and Jacksonville.
What’s worrisome is that Bucs coach Dirk Koetter admits there may not be much that he or Evans or even quarterback Jameis Winston can do to change that, what with the Bucs receiving corps as banged up as it is.
“If a defense is going to commit itself to taking a guy out they are probably going to be able to do it,’’ Koetter said “I mean, there’s only so many things you can do to a wide receiver.
“If it’s a running back you can turn around and hand it to him, but Mike’s not a guy that we throw a lot of screens to. We don’t run reverses with him. He’s not that type of player.
“But there’s no doubt about it, teams are definitely tilting their coverages (towards him). They’re getting up and hammering him (at the line of scrimmage) and they’re rolling the safety that way.’’
That’s a pretty gloomy picture Koetter has painted there, but all is not lost. There is plenty of reason to believe Evans can rebound and regain the form that has made him one of the NFL’s leading receivers.
For starters, the Bucs are hopeful they’ll soon get slot receiver Adam Humphries (concussion) back and that would help Evans immensely. Humphries ranks third on the team in receptions and yards with 42 for 467.
The Bucs are also hopeful that either Josh Huff or Russell Shepard can emerge as a solid second option to Evans. Neither is likely to draw a double team but if one or both can give Winston a viable alternative, opposing defenses may eventually have to respect them to at least a small degree.
And then there’s Winston. He has arguably played the best football of his career in recent weeks, but his connection with Evans hasn’t been as sharp the last two weeks as it has in the past and the Bucs are confident that will change as well.
“Yeah, there are still routes that can be successful, and if you really look at (Sunday’s) game, we had Mike (open on) some plays) in which we failed to get the ball to him),’’ Koetter said.
“Like that one in the first quarter (where Evans) was wide open (near the Saints) bench and Jameis got his arm hit right as he threw. There was also one on one of our field goal drives in the first half.
“The safety came up and jumped (tight end) Cam (Brate) and Mike was running a post route in behind. Jameis wasn’t expecting that based on that coverage and he let that ball get away from him a little bit.
“If he hits that ball in stride that’s another big play, and there was another play where we had Mike open and Jameis had to run out of the pocket, so it just hasn’t quite come together exactly right.’’
With his return to his home state of Texas Sunday night against Cowboys, Bucs fans are hoping Evans connection with Winston does “come together” in a very big game.