July 3rd, 2017

Starter? (Photo courtesy of

This much is certain: Barring an injury, rookie tight end O.J. Howard will start.

After that, it may be a stretch to say any other rookie will top the depth chart when the Bucs fly to Miami to open the regular season in two months, again, barring injuries.

In a way, that’s a good thing. It shows the roster is stronger and the starting lineup more difficult to crack. That hasn’t stopped Cole Thompson of USA Today-owned to speculate a certain Bucs rookie defender will start.

That defender? Safety Justin Evans.

O.J. Howard and Chris Godwin getting early playing time shouldn’t be much of a surprise, but it’s the Bucs’ second-round pick who could raise eyebrows by making an early splash. The Bucs have some capable veterans in the safety group, but nobody with the athleticism and playmaking ability Evans brings to the table. He needs to improve his technique and consistency as a tackler, but he’s the ball-hawk the Bucs have desperately needed on the back end for years.

Well, not only does Evans have to learn how to tackle, he also, per winning Bucs Dirk Koetter, needs to learn how to communicate. We all learned how problematic that can be for the Bucs defense last year, eh?

Look, it wouldn’t shock Joe if at some point Evans starts this season. But the Bucs dumped a lot of cash in the lap of free agent J.J. Wilcox ($3.1 million for 2017), and if Keith Tandy plays anywhere near the way he played after replacing injured fan favorite Chris Conte, Tandy is a virtual lock to start.

26 Responses to “Surprise?”

  1. RayJameisStadium Says:

    Lets see what the coaching staff can do here. I would love to see Evans develop into a balanced safety. I have a feeling Tandy will offer some coaching for the rookie too in the film room. A Tandy and improved tackler in Evans would be a solid tandem at safety.

    Evans starting is not a shocker as much as Aguayo getting a starting jobs this season.

    39 days to game day!!!!

    Go Bucs!!!

  2. Buccaneer Bonzai Says:

    “But the Bucs dumped a lot of cash in the lap of free agent J.J. Wilcox…”

    I don’t think you are very familiar with the play of Wilcox, otherwise you would understand he is not starting material.

    $3.1m is a drop in the bucket these days.

  3. Defense Rules Says:

    Improve his technique? Learn how to tackle? Learn how to communicate? Starting with 3 experienced safeties on the roster? Ya right. Maybe later in the season, but not out of the gate.

  4. Not there yet Says:

    No point rushing him to start day one. I think about how much trouble starters had learning the defense and feel like our days off depending on day one rookies starting have just about come to an end, don’t think Howard will stay over brate without earning it on the field first

  5. tnew Says:

    Howard and Brate will both start. The Bucs will start in 12 personnel in every game and probably take half of the snaps on first downs from that formation. Also, any running down Howard will be the TE of choice.

  6. Bird Says:

    Yah. Agree. Just cause a guy got 3 mil doesn’t mean anything with bucs. That’s chump change. Plus Verner was making 6.5 to sit on bench. Cherilus 4 a year to be back up. Aguayo drafted in 2nd round and may not be on team so GM / coach doesn’t play a guy cause of what he makes or where he is drafted. Plus 3 mil is a joke these days. NBA guys are making 40 mil a year. Laughable

  7. Eric Denman Says:

    No way hes a starter this season unless injuries force him in or Tandy and Conte get beat repeatedly on deep passes… I think hes gonna contribute on ST and learn the position from these veterans.

  8. Nole on Sat- Bucc on Sun Says:

    Looking forward to seeing Justin on the field the first defensive snap of the game opening day on south beach.

  9. Bucballbaby84 Says:

    Theyre gonna do a three man rotation. End of story

  10. Jim Says:

    If the Bucs can get a pass rush then Justin Evans’ job becomes far easier. He is a ball hawk.

  11. Dreambig Says:

    If he starts anytime soon, the Bucs are in trouble. Some of the highlights/lowlights on YouTube showing his poor tackling imply there is a lot of growth required from this young man.

  12. USFBUC Says:

    If the team is smart they will work him up to starting unless he is just that much better than the other safeties.

  13. Bucsfanman Says:

    ^^^Exactly! There’s no reason to thrust the kid into the line-up unless he’s head and shoulders better than Conte, Tandy, and Wilcox. I expect a rotational role for him.

  14. Pickgrin Says:

    The hope obviously is that Justin Evans can pull a Kwon and look so good early on that he siezes that starting job and doesn’t relinquish it because he’s just too damn good to keep off the field.

    That scenario is ideal but unlikely probably.

    The Bucs surprised pretty much everybody with this Evans pick at #50. My favorite pick for us there (Budda Baker) was long gone of course – but there were a lot of talented Safeties coming out this year and I believe only 4 had come off the board by this pick. Athletic Specimen/Workout Warrior/Combine Darling Obi Melafanwu was still on the board…

    We really needed a talent upgrade at Safety. A mid 2nd round pick is a pretty big investment at the Safety position.

    GM Licht and his staff and the coaches had obviously all agreed to this pick as the proper one at this spot and that Evans was the way to fill that need this team has had for too long assuming that Adams, Hooker and Baker were unreachable which they were. We fans who were surprised by the pick have to just trust the professional talent evaluators the Buccaneers employ and hope this Evans kid becomes a difference maker in the defensive backfield sooner than later.

  15. Maze Says:

    You would almost think Joe was paying the salaries 😅

  16. Bucsfanman Says:

    @Pickgrin- It is an investment but I’d rather see them take their time with the kid especially if he has some deficiencies. I guess time will tell on whether it was the right pick.

  17. Capt.Tim Says:

    Every rookie has deficiencies. Evans will be playing the Free safety position, and his instincts for turn overs will get him on the field for day one.
    Bet he leads the bucs in interceptions this year

  18. TouchDownTampaBay Says:

    LOL @ Eric! We have no starting caliber safeties on this team prior to the draft. Evans was taken in the 2nd round because he has the athleticism to be a legit starter in the NFL. My neighbor is a Bucs exec and he told me his favorite pick in the draft was Evans. To unequivically state that a 2nd round draft pick has no chance of starting when all we have are a bunch of scrubs at that position is just plain silly. Watch his film again. The kid flies around out there and looks like a beast in the making.

  19. Bucfan Says:

    I see him starting by our bye and I also see all of our draft pick so making the team this year too.

  20. Dooley Says:

    Can’t wait to see Evans in live action, kids got a high ceiling, plays fast, and initiates contact, what more could we ask of a potential big boom rookie safety.

  21. Nole on Sat- Bucc on Sun Says:

    Thank you Capt. Tim that’s what seems to be going over they’re heads. “His instinct for turnovers”. Reminds me of Ed Reed. The Baja seems to be attracted to certain players for whatever reason. Because of this he will be on the field day 1.

  22. Nole on Sat- Bucc on Sun Says:

    That is why I am super excited about him. Not the bone crushing hits. “The instincts for turnovers”. Watch his video again people.

  23. Nole on Sat- Bucc on Sun Says:

    The ball seems magnetically attracted to him.

  24. Nole on Sat- Bucc on Sun Says:

    Oh Touchdown if you stroll the archives,you’ll see me saying he was my favorite pick from the draft as well bro. Earl Thomas 2.0.

  25. SOEbuc Says:

    Love that he’s a ball hawk. He was smacking the sh!t out of guys in college so I guess he does have to learn how to tackle in was has become the National Flag Football League.

  26. LongSeason Says:

    Bring back Neal Colzie or Cedric Brown.

    Seriously, my money is on either Tandy/Wilcox or Tandy/Conte. Evans has the injury and I say that holds him back this year.