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Bucs rookie S Justin Evans relishes Hollywood-like first start

Roy Cummings

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Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire
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TAMPA – Buccaneers rookie safety Justin Evans’ first NFL start didn’t come with a Hollywood-like ending but it sure did have a Hollywood-like start to it.

A star was born just five plays into what became a 19-14 Bucs loss to the Patriots on national TV on Thursday night when Evans intercepted (above) quarterback Tom Brady’s fifth pass of the night.

“First pick as a rookie – that’s definitely great,’’ Evans said afterward. “And it was Tom Brady. I mean, you dream of doing stuff like that so I’m definitely fortunate.’’

 It was the beginning of a game in which Evans made the Bucs feel extremely fortunate for having selected him in the second round of the NFL Draft last spring.

With safeties Keith Tandy and T.J. Ward out nursing hip injuries, Evans was pressed into duty as a starter and the early reviews on his performance were mostly glowing.

“Justin Evans is another guy who looked good in his first game out there,’’ Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said. “That was a beautiful interception he got on the first drive.’’

 The pick came on the second of the nine plays in which Brady targeted Evans, who allowed five of the passes thrown his way to be caught for 47 yards and four first downs, according to Pro Football Focus.

Evans also missed two tackles, according to PFF, but he officially finished the night with nine tackles, second most on the team behind linebacker Kendell Beckwith’s 14, and a second pass breakup.

 “I thought I did some things well and I also did some things not so well,’’ said Evans, who wasn’t surprised to learn that he was picked on by Brady more than any other defender.

 “I would have thrown at the rookie making his first start also,’’ Evans joked. “I mean, it’s Tom Brady. He’s been playing this game for a long time. He knows exactly what he wants to do.

 “And a lot of times he knows exactly what you’re doing. So it’s tough to stop someone like that, but you’ve just got to stay focused and compete. And as for me, I’ve just got to learn from it and continue to experience it and it will all come.”

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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