Scott Smith wrote an article last week with the headline ‘Chris Godwin May Never Come Off the Field in 2019.’ Well, wide receiver Mike Evans says, “Hold my beer,” and plans to actually never come off the field in 2019.
After a stellar performance in the 2019 Pro Bowl where Evans tried his hand at outside corner, he has now decided to add that skillset to his already impressive repertoire. You’ll still see him on the field as the team’s ‘X’ receiver with the offense, but now, he’s also going to be rolling with the defense. What started as a joke of a tweet earlier last month has now turned into reality.
“I’m just a competitor,” Evans said of his decision to play both ways. “I always want to be on the field. It bugs me having to be on the sidelines while the defense is out there. When I got my shot at corner in the Pro Bowl, it was really to put people on notice that I can defend with the best of them. Literally.”
In the first snap Evans took during the All-Star game at outside corner, he recorded a pass defensed, which was cool enough, over Browns’ receiver Jarvis Landry. He then followed it up with an interception on the very next play. Think of that kind of production over the course of 16 games. That puts him on pace to bat down 360 passes and record a staggering 360 interceptions in a single season if he alternates a pass defensed and interception on every snap he takes at the position. That’s inhuman. And of course, not possible. You have to think Evans’ stats will level out with consistent work but even still, the Bucs may have been utilizing Evans in the wrong position all along.
In fact, Evans has lined up on defense before so this shouldn’t be a huge shock for him. He was utilized a lot on opponent hail mary situations, where he would line up on defense and try to either catch or bat down the ball when it flew into the end zone. It’s really not that different from the role of a corner at all. Plus, Evans is already very familiar with receiver routes, so he’ll be able to track the ball and probably know where the receiver is going before the receiver ever breaks.
Of course, Evans needed the support of his coaches to make his defensive dreams come true. This coaching staff has prided itself on pushing the envelope and this is just another way for them to do it. Football is a cyclical sport, so they’re being innovative by getting back to some very old school principles: just let players play.
The last two-way player in the National Football League was Chuck Bednarik, who was drafted in 1949, playing both center and linebacker for the Philadelphia Eagles. Not to take away from those positions at all but playing two of the most physically taxing positions in both receiver and cornerback, where you are constantly running up and down the field, isn’t going to be easy. However, Evans is up for the challenge.
“I know that it’s going to take a lot of conditioning on my part, both mentally and physically,” Evans admitted. “Fortnite has definitely been a big help, forcing me to concentrate on one thing continuously for a long period of time with no breaks. Seriously, ask my wife. Physically, I got into great shape last year and so I’ll work with the training staff to take that to the next level.”
Buccaneers owner Joel Glazer said Jameis Winston’s problems—including when he was accused of groping an Uber driver in 2016—are in the past and the team will be moving forward with him as its starting quarterback.
“That situation is last year. It’s in the past,” Glazer told Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times when asked whether Winston lied to the team about the accusation. “We’re looking forward, I know he’s looking forward. Our whole staff is looking forward. It’s all eyes forward to next year.”
Winston was suspended for the first three games of the 2018 season after a female Uber driver accused him of grabbing her crotch while she was driving him in Scottsdale, Arizona, in March 2016. No criminal charges were filed, but an NFL investigation found he acted inappropriately.
Winston will make $20.9 million in 2019 while playing on his fifth-year option. He will be an unrestricted free agent following the season, barring a long-term contract or him receiving the franchise tag before next March.
“It’s a big year for the Buccaneers,” Glazer said. “It’s a big year for [Winston]. Obviously, the quarterback position is an extremely important position. But I know Jameis. Jameis is up for any challenge and he’ll be ready.”
After his suspension, Winston ultimately wound up trading off the starting job with Ryan Fitzpatrick throughout the season. He threw for 2,992 yards and 19 touchdowns against 12 interceptions, playing in 11 games and starting nine.
“I think if you look at the last two seasons, it’s kind of been the tale of two seasons within the seasons with Jameis,” Glazer said. “Two years ago he was hurt, then toward the end of the year, you saw quality play on the field. Last year, after the beginning, comes back, towards the end of the year, plays well. We’ve seen it but it’s got to be consistent. But a year older, a year wiser and more experience.”
The Buccaneers signed Blaine Gabbert as Winston’s backup this offseason. However, it appears he’ll head into 2019 as the unquestioned starting quarterback with new coach Bruce Arians.