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Bucs benefitting already from mere presence of DeSean Jackson

Roy Cummings

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Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire
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TAMPA – Outside of the 39-yard circus catch he made at the end of an 11-second-long Jameis Winston scramble play, Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans didn’t have a very big game against the Chicago Bears last year.

Bracketed and double-teamed throughout the day, the eventual 2016 Pro Bowler wound up catching just four passes, none of which went for a touchdown, for 66 yards, his seventh-lowest yardage output of the season.

Evans had a much bigger game against the Bears this year. In what became the Bucs season opener last Sunday, Evans had a much-more Evans-like afternoon, catching seven of the nine passes thrown his way for 93 yards and a touchdown.

The difference? DeSean Jackson.

Like Evans a year ago, Jackson didn’t put together the kind of game against the Bears that jumps off the stat sheet at you. He caught just three passes for 39 yards. His mere presence, though, freed up Evans to be the game changer he’s capable of being.

Take that touchdown catch for example. It came on a first-down play from the Bears 13, where Evans was matched on the far right side of the field against a single cornerback, whom he easily beat to make the catch of Winston’s fade pass into the end zone.

The reason Evans faced single coverage, though, was because Jackson was put in a bunch formation on the other side of the field that forced the single high safety on the play to wait until Winston first looked Jackson’s way before committing to Evans.

The Bucs didn’t have anyone to draw the safety’s attention away from Evans a year ago, not just in the Bears game but in a lot of games down the stretch, which is why the Bucs believe Jackson is already having an impact on the way defenses are treating Evans.

“The year before, they doubled (Evans) every time we got inside the 10-yard line,’’ Bucs offensive coordinator Todd Monken explained. “So we didn’t have that opportunity (to throw to Evans that was presented to us this year). They didn’t give it to us.’’

According to Evans, the Bears gave the Bucs that opportunity regularly throughout their 29-7 opening-day victory last Sunday.

“Yeah, there was a lot more one-high stuff this year, a lot more man coverage,’’ Evans said. “And that’s what we want. Coach Dirk (Koetter) is going to put us in a good position to get the one-on-one matchups, so we’ve just got to win ‘em when we get ‘em.’’

The Bucs have long thought Jackson would have that kind of impact. That’s why they brought him aboard this past spring when they signed him to a three-year, $33.5 million deal in free agency.

Their thinking then was that in addition to providing Winston with one of the best deep threats in the game, Jackson would also create greater opportunities for other players throughout the lineup.

It took just one game for that their theory to be proved correct.

Roy Cummings is a native of Chicago, Illinois who grew up in the suburb of Lombard. He and his family later moved to Lakeland, Florida, where Roy attended high school at Kathleen High. He graduated from the University of South Florida with a Bachelor's Degree in Mass Communications in 1983 and immediately went to work for the Tampa Tribune. After five years working in a Polk County bureau covering everything from high school sports to college football to the Orlando Magic of the NBA, Roy moved back to Tampa and became the Tribune's first beat writer for the Tampa Bay Lightning, covering the team from its inception through the first eight years on the ice. He was then moved to the Buccaneers beat, where he stayed until the paper was folded in May, 2016. A two-time Florida Sports Writer of the Year, Roy has extensive experience covering all Tampa professional sports teams, including the Tampa Bay Rays.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Fantasy Football “Start/Sit” for Florida players Week 14

Florida Football Insiders

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
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Everyone’s favorite time of year has arrived, that is if you had a good season. The fantasy playoffs are here, and if you made it, chances are some Florida players helped get there.

This week the Buccaneers will host the reeling Colts. The Jaguars will host the under-performing Chargers, and the Dolphins travel to play the ever-disappointing Jets.

The Buccaneers will entertain the Colts, who have the 13th overall defense. The Colts are 1-4 in their last five games and desperately need a win. Last week, they were torched on the ground by Titans RB Derick Henry. However, this was the first 100-yard rusher against the Colts this season.

The Bucs again surprised fantasy players last week, when Ronald Jones was benched in the first half for not picking up a blitz. This led to Peyton Barber scoring two touchdowns, while Jones had zero points. The Colts have surrendered two passing touchdowns in each of their last three games. Last week the Tampa Bay offense didn’t have to do nearly as much as usual.

This week, expect the Bucs vertical passing to be back throwing the ball at least 35 times. With a stout run defense, Jameis Winston will need to be at the top of his game in a big test for this Bucs team.

The Jaguars offense has been rough through the air with Nick Foles back. Now, Foles is back on the bench in favor of rookie, Gardner Minshew. The Chargers come into town with the 4th ranked pass defense, but let Drew Lock and Cortland Sutton connect for 74 yards and two touchdowns. The Chargers own the 18th ranked rush defense, and that is music to the ears of Leonard Fournette.

It has been a rough couple of weeks for the running back facing some stout run defenses. This weekend look for Fournette to get back on track. With the return of Minshew means the D.J. Chark becomes even more attractive. Chark was still the top guy with Foles in, but he and Minshew have a good connection.

The Dolphins are coming off one of the stunners of the year beating the Eagles in a 37-31 shootout. This week they set their sights on the Jets, who just gave the Bengals their first win. The Jets have the leagues’ best-run defense, which is usually significant. However, the Dolphins can’t run the ball effectively at all.

That means Ryan Fitzpatrick will be throwing a lot against the 19th ranked pass defense.

Last week Fitzpatrick and Devante Parker destroyed the Eagles secondary. This week they will have all the opportunities to do the same thing to the Jets. With the tight end position a mess, Mike Gesicki is an option again, who has scored in two straight games.

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Colts Kicker Adam Vinateri out for Bucs game

Abbey Radeka

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Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
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The Colts are traveling to Tampa Bay but will likely take on the Bucs without their future Hall of Fame Kicker, Adam Vinatieri.

Before the matchup last week against the Titans, Vinatieri had began to experience a bit of pain in his left knee, the leg he plants to kick with his right leg. He told reporters that the pain began to increase through the week which led him to be placed on the Colt’s injury report for the first time this season.

Later Friday afternoon, Indy made Vinatieri’s “out” status official:

Vinatieri who is currently the NFL’s all-time leading scorer, has struggled to be consistent this season and has made a career-low 68% of his field goal attempts. He’s cost the Colt’s a couple of games in his missed eight field goals and six extra points.

Colts head coach Frank Reich said Wednesday that Vinatieri saw some doctors and got scans to figure out the severity of the problem. From there, they’ll consult with doctors and make a decision, which could potentially end his career. He’s currently sitting at 599 made FGs in his 24 seasons, just one shy of the 600 mark.

Earlier this week, Indianapolis secured rookie kicker Chase McLaughlin off waivers from the San Francisco 49ers and the 45 year old Pro Bowler had said on Thursday that if he got the go ahead from everyone, he’d take the field on Sunday.

“Docs and trainers and everybody will put their two cents in and we’ll see if we can go,” Vinatieri said. “If I can go, I’ll go.”

Obviously, he did not get good news, and that means the rookie McLaughlin is in to kick at Raymond James Stadium.

The Colts are looking to stay in the race for the AFC wild card spot, in a similar situation as the Bucs, so this Sunday (and really every Sunday from here on out) is a do or die for both teams.

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