Big Change In Mike Evans’ Usage, And It Works

October 7th, 2022

Best in the league in this route.

One great thing about Mike Evans is his extreme versatility.

Joe remembers a year or two ago talking to a college offensive coordinator who told Joe that Evans was one of the best possession receivers he’s ever seen. Joe thought that was sort of short-sighted. Evans can do so much.

Evans is known more since Tom Brady showed up as a lethal red zone target. But he’s equally dangerous on medium routes along the sidelines. Evans has some of the best footwork along the sidelines Joe has ever seen.

And of course, just when you start to doze off, Evans will burn you deep. Right, Jalen Ramsey?

Well, BSPN did a project on what teams and what receivers run the best and worst routes.

And the research the four-letter found this week is that the Bucs offense has changed its routes and the frequency of routes.

As a result, Evans has run different routes this year and he and the Bucs are the best at one particular route, per Seth Walder (who never met a stat he didn’t like).

Tampa Bay’s high slant usage (5.1%) is a significant change from last season (2.9%), jumping from 21st-highest to the most in the NFL. Injuries and changes to the Buccaneers’ receiving group play a part in the increase, but here’s something: Tampa Bay receiver Mike Evans leads the NFL in slants with 10.6% of his routes — up from 3.3% in 2021.

Joe wonders if one reason Evans has had an uptick in slants in that those routes are less wear and tear than constantly running medium- or deep-routes.

And of course Bucs offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich, if asked, will parrot his favorite dodge of “We’re just trying to win the game” — DUH! Joe thought you were trying to throw every game!

Of course, if a receiver is running mostly shorter routes, in theory, his legs might be fresher as the season drags on.

27 Responses to “Big Change In Mike Evans’ Usage, And It Works”

  1. Bucschamp Says:

    Good stuff. Save the long bombs later on

  2. Kody Says:

    Love Evans. He’s a super stud. But would love to see Cade, Ko and R. White heavily mixed into the passing game, too. Ko had and amazing catch last week. I thing White had 5 grabs. And we know Cade has good hands. Without Gronk anymore, see these 3 possibly making up for his lost production.

    Love Godwin, Julio and Gage as well, but not their year so far. Hopefully things turn around for all three of them ASAP, so we can start relying on them as much as Evans. They’ll also help Evans get open easier/more often. Always helpful.

    With all these guys healthy and firing on all cylinders, we can definitely get back to our winning ways! Let’s hope it happens!

  3. adam from ny Says:

    ME13 has really become a fine tuned well oiled machine…

    he used to be so good, yet so raw…

    another one sorta getting better with age…until he slows down (happens to them all over time)

    now if he could only let all the lattimore bs go in one ear and out the other, he’d be the perfect specimen

  4. adam from ny Says:

    he will pass 10,000 yards this year…

    and i wonder if he can stick around long enough to get 15k on his resume

  5. Defense Rules Says:

    Great article Joe, explains a lot. Mike Evans’ career catch percentage is 57.6%, and it’s actually gotten better since TB12 arrived (was 55.3% through 2019). This season he’s catching at an astounding 76.2% rate (16-of-21 for 235 yds). And that’s for only 3 games and against some excellent defenses.

    Improving your catch percentage by 20% is probably unprecedented. That puts Mike into ‘beast territory’ IMO.

  6. Bob in valrico Says:

    These high slants and intermediate routes have higher completion
    percentage than the lower percentage go routes Jameis used to throw,IMO.
    Still remember Mike running running down the field with his head bent backwards
    hunting for Jameis’s passes that were not always where they should have been.
    Its been fun watching Mike being utilized more effectively this year. He’s got
    great hands and has taken some very hard hits without flinching. Mike is very capable of producing 1300-1500 yards a season if used properly. The trend of
    waiting to the last game of the year to get his 1000 yards needs to stop ,IMO.
    On another note, I read a silly article about our Super Bowl hopes taking a big
    hit because of the retirement of Cole Beasley. If we get both Mike and Chris then I think ourSuper Bowl chances are greatly increased.

  7. Bob in valrico Says:

    Great point about Mike’s footwork on the sideline. Trouble is, I don’t believe we have seen enough of since the Koetter days. I am not sure how creative BL is,
    but I think our offense could be better, if he would if he would study some of the most effective offenses and use some their plays. If he doesn’t fix these slow starts in the first half that we have often had, then he needs to be evaluated.

  8. DavidBigBucsFan99 Says:

    If only they’d throw more crossing routes to him he’s great at those too!

  9. Kentucky Buc Says:

    The uptick in slants has a lot to do with the Oline and how the opposing defenses are playing to take away the deep ball.

  10. adam from ny Says:

    this is true, i haven’t seen me13 toe tap catches really since the koetter days…

    and also the back of the end zone high throw to the goal post and let mike go up and get it…

    they really should bring back the toe tapper sideline plays for him so he can take less hits imho…

    last week against the chiefs, he definitely took some hard hits

  11. DG060 Says:

    Mike is a pro’s pro. The best player on this franchise for a long time.

  12. PSL Bob Says:

    “he’s equally dangerous on media routes along the sidelines.” I guess that would be along the left sideline?

  13. NCBucfan Says:

    That one handed catch where Evans skyed up to get with one hand, and got absolutely pounded by the safety, is one of the greatest catches in NFL history in my opinion. I believe it was in 2016, against the Falcons. Amazing!

  14. Dooley Says:

    Mike’s a big target, slants would keep him in Brady’s field of vision while also playing on Brady’s ability to anticipate the blitz pre-snap or have a big catch radius target as his outlet post-snap. So, whether Brady reads inside-out or vice versa, he’ll have Evans leveled out in the middle of the field. I’d suspect, it’s a move to get Mike into more space as opposed to confining him to the outside with the sideline being used to the defenders advantage. Could also be Leftwich compensating for Goodwin being on the mend still and maybe not wanting to rush him into resuming the role as the middle of the field until CG is confident enough.

  15. Beeej Says:

    Absent Godwin and Julio, Gage still limited, they’re trying to find ANYone who can reliably catch a pass

  16. #8 Says:

    I am eagerly looking forward to all the guys being healthy.
    Julio is pretty versatile also.
    Enemy db’s wouldn’t be able to matchup as well when they don’t know which could be running deep vs. intermediate.
    I don’t think Gage or Godwin are real true deep threats ever, but they could be if Evans & Julio switch it up also.

  17. Duane Says:

    He likely gets the slant because that is the current route determined to be offered by the defense. Teams are likely to be rolling coverage on the medium and long routes, and to Evans based on past performances. Because he has size, he can shield the passing lane by boxing out the defender, which is an open window TB12 is comfortable throwing into. While there is possibly less wear on the legs of a receiver, I disagree that it is healthier decision as the pursuit from the front side of slants is normally a nasty collision. You gotta mix it up, and this is the current iteration of a high powered offense finding its footing.

  18. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    Evans is doing great considering he’s not getting all the 50-50 throws….

    50-50 was good for Jameis……not good for Brady…..>Brady doesn’t like 50-50 odds.

  19. Ultra ClodHopper Says:

    2 years on the TB12 method and he’s playing as a good as ever.

  20. Coburn Says:

    Yeah I remember during the Koetter days he ran a lot more horizontal routes. Enough that DeSean Jackson was brought in to be the deep threat we didn’t have. Evans was really good at sideline routes, slants, crossing, and coming.vaxk to the QB. Great possession type.. and then we heard one offseason he was really working on his speed and he’s been known as a deep threat these last few years

  21. Goatfarmer Says:

    HOF ME13, my favorite Buccaneer. I might just wear his jersey today for no particular reason at all.

  22. D-Rok Says:

    Evans is awesome. Class act on and off the field. Yes, I include his actions in the Saints game resulting in ejection as a “class act.”

    In training camp, with all these new additions on the O-Line, I was screaming for more slants and screens. Glad to see the numbers showing the coaches listened to me. LOL!

    In all seriousness, with a new o-line a QB must go to a shorter, quicker release, and I believe this article shows the Bucs coaches aren’t stupid and are attempting just that, which are smart reactions to what has unfolded.

    I also noticed in the Chiefs game that Evans seemed to catch almost all the routes that Gronk used to run – that huge seam pass where he got popped in the back was vintage Brady/Gronk, and I’m not sure I’ve seen Evans run too many of those deep middle seams this year?

    Great article!!! And GO BUCS!!!

  23. Ed Says:

    He’s the real deal. The best Buccaneer offensive weapon in their history. Touchdown machine!

  24. Brandon Says:

    What? Slants are less wear and tear on receivers than other routes? Sorry, Joe. Not much thought put into that. Slants and crosses provide the MOST wear and tear on receivers. When running slants, receivers are often hit immediately after catching the ball by a playing coming UP to make the tackle… often those players are linebackers that have a 50 lb weight advantage,,, and it isn’t just linebackers… players are usually tackling slant receivers moving forward, not in reverse like on longer passes. You couldn’t have really thought this one out before writing it. Slants are for tough guys that can catch in traffic, flyes, flags, and posts are for the flyers that don’t want contact. Even when those guys are tackled, they are tackled by a back that is making a play on the ball first, not the receiver, and they are running WITH that receiver, not in the opposite and oncoming direction.,

  25. David Says:

    I think it stems from starting the season with two new offensive lineman and then moving to a back up and third string left tackle. Slants enable you to get the ball out quick.
    With other receivers being hurt it also helps prevent double teams over the top. I would imagine that percentage will go down as they get healthy

  26. Bob in valrico Says:

    Brandon has a good point about slants being dangerous. That’s how Godwin got hurt. Its not a good play if you lose your receiver to the IR. And by the way can’t
    remember anybody getting hurt or even tackled on the toe tapping route Evans is so good at and so might be 2 or 3 more of our receivers. We are also missing the little swing pass to Hump that got many a first down. Split the trips up and let
    Mike block for him. This also opens the possibility of having one of them going on a deep crossing route opening up space for the other receiver to move the chains in the vacated area. Just another effective koetter four vertical wrinkle.
    Oh and bye the way Byron they are usually past the first down marker.

  27. Sorryjackchuckiesback Says:

    Or he may get smashed by a linebacker or big hitter safety and be out for weeks… He took some big hits against Kansas which Brady really doesn’t like throwing those routes and getting his receivers hit … But Evans is big and strong so… Hopefully it keeps working