Making big plays hasn’t been an issue for Mike Evans going back to his time at Texas A&M. But consistency has been.
During Evans’ sophomore season in 2013 with the Aggies, he averaged 20.2 yards per reception on 69 catches. At 6 feet 5 and 235 pounds, Evans ran an impressive 4.53 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine and eventually was selected with the seventh overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Evans has the size to catch the jump ball and outfight opponents for contested catches, and he has the speed to run by defenders. He has shown both through the first two seasons of his NFL career, but after 15 dropped passes through those two seasons — including an NFL-high 11 in 2015 — there are questions about his hands and consistency.
On Sunday, in his first real test of the 2016 season, Evans responded to that criticism by making one of the highlight-reel catches of the weekend. There is no question about whether Evans is capable of making those plays, but if he can make them consistently. If so, he could ascend to the level of the NFL’s elite wide receivers.
Evans made an acrobatic 45-yard touchdown catch on a Jameis Winston heave in the third quarter of the Bucs’ win over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday. The catch gave Tampa Bay a 31-13 lead in a road division game that it eventually won 31-24.
“That was just Mike being Mike,” Winston said after the game. “I tell you guys all the time that guy is a superstar. He was striking fear in those DBs’ hearts. You know, early on in the game we weren’t really targeting him as much but Mike is a selfless individual. But he stayed chopping and he got his.”
The touchdown capped off an impressive third quarter for Evans. He started slow, catching just one pass for 4 yards in the first half, but came on in the third quarter with four catches for 94 yards, including the 45-yard touchdown.
“That was another beautiful catch,” Tampa Bay coach Dirk Koetter said. “We tell our guys all the time you got to make your plays. Whatever your plays are, you got to make them because not everybody has the same ones.”
(You can follow Tony Smith on Twitter @1010xlfattony)
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