The “Volume” Hurdle

July 17th, 2019


He’s close. He’s right there.

With a little work on his composure and a little help from a new coaching staff, Mike Evans has every chance to end the 2019 season as the most highly-regarded wide receiver in the league.

As good as he’s been, and he’s been very good, Evans still has a way to go when it comes to national reputation. When NFL Network released its annual Top 100 list last summer, Evans was nowhere to be found among the 14 receivers cited.

When the CBS Sports staff announced its Top 100 a few days ago, Evans came in at No. 61 overall. He’s better than that, and now he has to prove it.

Let’s get this stated up front — Evans is the best player on the Bucs and with all due respect to Lavonte David, it’s not even close. He ranked third in the NFL last season with 1,524 receiving yards and registered eight 100-yard games, despite a revolving door at quarterback and a plodding running attack.

Receiver whisperer, too?

Evans’ average of 17.7 yards per catch ranked No. 1 for players with more than 41 receptions. Still, there’s room to grow.

Through Tampa Bay’s first 14 games, Evans had only 5 TD catches. He reached the end zone three times in the final two weeks, but he’s got to be utilized more in the red zone. He’s too big, too strong and too smart for corners to handle on fades into the corner. Even if the pass falls incomplete, there’s a good chance for an interference call.

“When Mike practices and he’s feeling good, he’s a handful,” said former Bucs offensive coordinator Todd Monken.

Coaching Challenge

Now it’s up to Byron Leftwich and Bruce Arians to figure out a way to direct more footballs to Evans.

Volume … that’s the only thing keeping Evans from being considered with Julio Jones, Antonio Brown and DeAndre Hopkins at the top rungs of the wide receiver food chain.

Consider that Evans hasn’t turned in a 100-catch season during his five years in Tampa. Why? The Bucs don’t throw enough passes in his direction.

Consider this: In 77 games over the past five years, Evans has been targeted 717 times. In the same amount of games since 2014, Jones has had 813 footballs sent his way. In his past 76 games, Brown was targeted 859 times.

First-down machine

Despite that disparity, Evans has been a first-down machine as a pro. Last year, 69 of his 86 catches moved the sticks, an 80.2 percent clip that ranked No. 1 among players with 60 receptions or more.

How can Evans take that final step? Mental toughness.

Mountain Top

Physical corners have gotten into his head on occasion. In 2017, Minnesota’s Xavier Rhodes and Saints rookie Marshon Lattimore frustrated Evans with tight, aggressive coverage. Evans lost his cool, but let’s not forget these are two of the best defensive backs in the league.

Last season, in Carolina’s 42-28 victory at Charlotte, James Bradberry shadowed Evans and held him to one catch for 16 yards, despite 10 targets.

“It’s Mike Evans, he’s a top receiver in this league,” Bradberry said after the game. “I’m just sending a message out to the rest of the receivers that I’m pretty good myself. I knew I had to get my hands on him first, before he got his hands on me.”

Evans was flagged for three offensive pass interference penalties last fall, but that’s no big deal. Playing physical is a key part of his game. What he has to realize is opposing corners are going to employ aggressive tactics against him.

There’s no reason to think Evans is going to take a step back in 2019.

Adam Humphries and DeSean Jackson have departed, but the Bucs retain plenty of firepower for Jameis Winston.

“We have a lot of playmakers,” Evans says, “and we’re going to be one of the best receiving groups in the league again.”

It’s not far-fetched to think Evans will stand at the top of the wide receiver mountain by the end of the year. It’s been awhile since the Bucs could credibly boast the NFL’s premier player at his position. You’d have to go back to Derrick Brooks at his peak, circa 2002.

That was a pretty satisfying season for Buc fans. If Evans has his way, 2019 won’t be too shabby, either.

32 Responses to “The “Volume” Hurdle”

  1. Buccaroo Says:

    For Evans to have a repeat successful season it’s up to Godwin, and Perriman to garner attention and keep Evans out of double coverage. If those two can’t get the same attention that DJax received then Evans will be double covered with a safety over the top on almost every play. With DJax we had two #1’s on the field which made defenses pick their poison, and many times the defense would shade the safety towards DJax putting Evans in one on one coverage.

  2. July Joe Says:

    Mike Evans is a frigging superstar! The media ignores him but he has the chance to be the best in the game and isn’t a diva either which I love!

  3. 813bucboi Says:


    GO BUCS!!!!

  4. D1 Says:

    “How can Evans take that final step? ”
    “Mental toughness.”

    Mental toughness certainly helps in the situations you described.
    But better route running, being less predictable and developing the understanding and the techniques that allow him to push off or hold on to a DB without it being flagged as interference.

    If Evans improves in these specific areas then it will be difficult if not impossible to get him to the point where he must rely on “mental toughness “.

    When any player gets frustrated to the point He lashes out, it’s not a mental toughness issue, it’s for the most part a technique or physical limitation that has prevented the player from executing his responsibilities.

    The idea that Evans hasn’t reached the top of his game should be frightening to opposing DB’s.

  5. Jim Says:

    Well, one reason Evans isn’t getting the volume is the Bucs have arguably the best receiver corps in the league. Lots of quality targets. Another reason is he’s both closely covered and often double covered.

  6. RawDog Says:

    Agree that even with as much as he has done already, there’s still room for growth.

    Disagree that volume is an issue. The ball is forced to Evans all the time, he gets plenty of targets. Double teams & deep WR group like Jim said are a factor, but our dude has to get into the end zone a little more than he did last year.

  7. Jordan L Says:


  8. Dirks Great Granpappy Says:

    The whole double covered thing always gets me. You think Julio, Antonio and deandre aren’t doubled the same amount if not more? They still get it down. They just have the ability to take it 80 yards for a score and mike will get hawked down ala druggie and vjax

  9. Mike Johnson Says:

    Team Wins will change everything. One man cannot bring a team up from the cellar. Start Winning Bucs. Its really..just that simple.

  10. Go Bucs 72 Says:

    Speaking of “Volume,” where’s the damn podcast!?!?!!

  11. BucDan Says:

    Let me start by saying that more Mike Evans is never a bad thing!

    Those stats above are good numbers to view, but let’s dig a little deeper.

    813-717 = 96 and 859-717 = 142

    142/2 = avg. of 119 more targets over five years. Let’s call it 120

    120/5 = 24 more targets per year; 24/16 = 1.5 more targets per game

    Definitely adds up in the long run, but not necessarily a huge difference in targets on a game-to-game basis.

    So, the real question: How do we get the ball headed in M.E.’s direction an additional 1.5-2X per game?

  12. BucDan Says:

    *142/2 should be 238/2 = 119 (avg of 96 and 142 target difference)

  13. Cannon Says:

    Its kinda of tough to measure Evan’s production based on number of targets… the offense was always predicated on the long ball, so we really didn’t need to many catches to move it down the field.

    In other words, Mike got less opportunities because his catches were for chunk yardage.

    Now if they would only throw that back corner fade a bit more…

  14. Bird Says:

    Bucs best player. Totally agree

    He has good connection with Jameis.
    Arians knows where the bread should be buttered and find out a way to get mike the ball more.

    Hoping for 15 tds this year . He had 12 tds in 2 different years.
    He has a chance at 15

  15. Anonymous Says:

    Great post Ira

  16. Pit of Misery Says:

    Great post Ira.

  17. JimmyJack Says:

    I side with Joe on this. Evans has been on bad teams and it’s an uphill battle to to get the recgonition he’s earned.

    Put this guy on Prime Time & put him in a playoff battle and let the country see firsthand what he do during a game and he will get a lot more love.

    You witness a guy make a big time clutch catch and it sticks with you. Of course you’ll rate that guy higher then the guy who aren’t on TV.

  18. Magadude Says:

    Great read. Ira–the voice of reason. And you don’t use a bogus handle like “Mikey7of 7” or “NotrOLLherenotunsTABLE” or other nonsense. You use your real name, which is cool. Or….wait a minute…Tom McEwen, the great sports writer in the history of the Bay….is that you?

  19. Lamarcus Says:

    Ira is right. He needs to beat the Elite corners of the league to be Elite. Rhodes or Patterson is guarding him he looks below average

  20. Defense Rules Says:

    Aren’t we kinda getting greedy here? ME13 was targeted 138 times last year. That’s a BUNCH on a team with the receiving corps that the Bucs had in 2018 (as in 22% of the 625 total pass attempts by Bucs QBs). Next closest was Humphries with 105 targets & Godwin with 95 targets.

    Bucs ran the ball LESS THAN 37% of our total 1,055 plays (if you count the 41 sacks as plays that were intended to be pass plays). That amounted to a total of 389 rushes … whoopteedoo. Just as bad, our RBs … ALL of them … were only targeted a total of 88 times last season (in comparison, Patriots RB James White was targeted 123 times last year & was their most targeted receiver).

    Mike Evans gained over 1,500 yards last year. That’s an incredible production. But let’s not forget that even with that 1,500 yards, the Bucs went 5-11. Interesting that ME13 was essentially targeted the same number of times in 2017 (136 targets) but he ‘only’ managed 1,001 yards … over 500 yards LESS with the same number of targets. And oh ya, the Bucs only rushed 390 times in 2017 … same number of run plays as in 2018 and yes, LESS than 37% of the total plays. And the Bucs RBs only got 95 targets that season. Interestingly the Bucs went 5-11 that year also. Coincidence? I think not. More like poor use of the available weapons IMO.

    MAYBE, just MAYBE, getting the ball to Mike Evans MORE isn’t the real answer to a winning season. MAYBE devoting more plays to the running game (like 40-45%) would help (AFTER we FIX the OLine so our RBs can actually gain some yards by running through holes?). And MAYBE getting our RBs more involved in the passing game might help also (instead of using them as blocking dummies in the backfield?). And MAYBE targeting our TEs more might also help (instead of using them so much to make up for OLine blocking deficiencies?). And oh ya, spreading the ball around more to our other WRs who show that they can make plays. Just a thought …

  21. Clw JB Says:

    ME13 catches 100+ without a doubt

    Might get 2k yds and 15 TD’s

    He is by far and away our best player, an All-Pro ignored by the national media because we are the Yuks to them

    I mean he is just money in the bank and the best kind of WR for JW, big, strong, wide catch radius

    Can’t wait for this thing to get started!!!!!!!!

  22. Clw JB Says:

    Imagine ME13 on the Chiefs or Pats…..he’d have shows dedicated to his accomplishments and be the #1 receiver in the land, bar none

    Or the Chargers or Packers or any other winning organization

    Okay enough ranting

  23. Race to 10 Says:

    If ya ask mike Evans I’m sure the only thing he cares about is playoffs and be honest the only reason he’s not ranked higher than guys he outperforms is they playoff games where they could show what they can do.

  24. DB55 Says:

    Fun fact: Mike Evans is the best WR to ever wear a Bucs uniform AND Jameis Winston holds the single season and franchise records for most TDs thrown by a Bucs QB.

  25. stpetebucsfan Says:

    Agree with Ira and Mike and all those who point out that until the Bucs win and in particular start reaching some playoffs ME13 is stuck right where he is in terms of reputation.

    Is this fair? Of course not! But I remember a great lesson an old dude taught me once about 40 years ago…SPBF…your problem is you think life is fair. That is a major mistake. Life isn’t fair and you just have to play the hand dealt you. If ME13 had been drafted by the Saints he would be golden now. And even with my limited hoops skills, if I had been 6’10” I honestly believe I could have been a scholarship player. Alas I was ten inches too short.

    So ME13 needs the playoffs to gain the additional national exposure, a time when millions are watching and each play takes on added significance. It’s like sorry Mike…when the Bucs reach the playoffs get back to us.

  26. Asdf Says:

    Only thing missing is the ability to take a 10 yard slant to the house. Personally I think that’s what separates him from the tippy top WR’s.

    That said, I love the kid and believe the YAC is mainly on JW. Taking some of the hits on balls JW has thrown him has definitely changed the way ME protects himself right after making a catch versus turning up field (I also wonder if VJAX didn’t tell him to just go down and prolong his career? vJaX took a lot of big hits, and now that DBs have to target lower it’s much more dangerous for the tall WRs). You see him take catches to the ground to protect his body and I don’t blame him as I have seen JW nearly get him killed a few times (remember one particularly bad one in Minnesota a couple years ago).

  27. WestChap Says:

    The only thing more predictable than Bucs targeting ME when in 3rd & long was the likelihood he would deliver the 1st down. Looking to Byron and Bruce for some more creative play calling while driving and a greater focus on ME in the red zone. He’s a beast.

  28. Dusthty Rhothdes Says:

    Mike Evans is top 5 in the NFL only thing holding him back is the horrible bucs organization. The one and only home run jason licht has had in 5 years is ME. The guy is a flat out stud. He reminds me of the sandman broderick thomas of the bucs when the bucs were terrible back in the early 90s, no disrespect to mark carrier because he was a stud but, Thomas like evans was the only stud on the team and evans is way above the sandman but the theme is the same, the bucs as an organization and a team are bottom feeders and need to blow this up

  29. German Buc Says:

    SPBF, John F. Kennedy said “Life’s not fair but not always to your disadvantage.”

  30. stpetebucsfan Says:

    Thanks for that reminder German! Whenever I catch myself feeling sorry for myself it doesn’t take long to snap out of it.

  31. Barbosa Says:

    I’m going to disagree with Ira. We don’t need to force the ball more to Mike. We need a running threat and a defense that can stop someone

  32. Oldcodger Says:

    Why must we focus on individual numbers when the only one that matters is WINS? I’ll take 12 W’s over 100 catches or any stat for that matter. I bet Mike Evans would rather have a Super Bowl ring than a WR stat trophy.