Offensive Coordinator Byron Leftwich met with the press and discussed the state of the team and its preparations for the Saints' visit this weekend. Here are some of the topics on which Leftwich touched:
1. Mike Evans is going to get the ball on Sunday.
Wide receiver Mike Evans, who was held without a catch the last time the Bucs and Saints met in New Orleans, will enter into Sunday's contest having amassed 460 receiving yards in the last three games alone. He's 76 yards from his sixth-consecutive 1,000-yard season to start his career, putting him in the company of only Randy Moss as players who have accomplished the feat. If it's up to Offensive Coordinator Byron Leftwich, Evans is going to get those 76 yards on Sunday against the stingy Saints.
"We'll put him in different places," Leftwich said. "We'll move him around. We'll go to him when he's in his one-on-one matchups. When a guy's that special [and] a guy's that good, for the most part, the ball will find his way more than not. It didn't that game. We don't want to go too far with trying to just move him around and put him in different situations. We'll do what we think we need to do for us to have the most success really as an offense, not just really for Mike. For the most part, that guy doesn't really need a lot of help. He gets in position and makes plays for us, so we don't want to do too much. We're going to be us. We're going to go be us and hopefully he'll have more catches this game."
Evans downplayed any sort of 'revenge game' narrative earlier this week. He says he doesn't worry about numbers and his motivation doesn't depend on others. He wants to be the best he can be, period.
"When you're as good as he is, I'm quite sure he's motivated by a lot of things," Leftwich said. "Mike's a true superstar. The way he plays, the plays that he makes [and] the things that he does for us as a team [are] unique. Very few people can make the plays that Mike can make. I don't know his thinking of it, but I'm quite sure he'll be ready to play this Sunday as if he's ready to play every Sunday, and that's all I know of the guy. He'll come ready to play – I've got to do a better job of getting him the ball."
2. Vita Vea's athleticism and football awareness led to his utilization on offense.
You may have noticed a strange sight at the end of Sunday's game as the Bucs were on the goal line, needing a touchdown to win the game with seconds remaining. Defensive tackle Vita Vea was on the field – and he proved to be the difference as running back Peyton Barber scored the game-winning touchdown thanks, in part, to blocks provided by Vea.
"I guess the world knows how good [of] an athlete he is now," Leftwich said. "It's something that we always knew. Vita's a super athlete. Vita's a big guy that can really move. I guess the world has seen that highlight tape now that we knew about, that we knew of – I guess the world's seen it. But, it just goes to show you – you watch the plays that he made in the three plays that he was in. That's a football-aware guy. He's not even on the outside of the ball and [to] have the wherewithal [with] what he did on that touchdown run is part of the reason why we have him in that situation. At the same time, it just says a lot about the guy [and] the player, how athletic most of these guys in this league are and what they're able to do and are capable of doing."
So, can we expect to see Vea get more involved? Maybe run a route?
"We'll see," said Leftwich, smiling.
3. RB Ronald Jones is doing everything right.
Second-year Ronald Jones is enjoying a much-improved sophomore season. He had 77 receiving yards, a career-high, last game against Arizona. He's shown he can be explosive on the ground but now also has the added reliability of being effective in the passing game. So, what does he need to do to be an every-down back?
"Everything – he's doing everything right," Leftwich said. "I don't know what world we got into where we draft guys and in six games, we're judging that guy. That's crazy. It's crazy, the speed that we're judging these guys at such a young [age]. I remember in the league, when I first got in, it wasn't that way. I don't know what's really going on or why it's that way, but we judge these young players so early in the process. We give them labels right out [of] the gate. We tend, as a coaching staff, not to do that. RoJo (Ronald Jones II) is on pace to go where he needs to go as a player. He's becoming a professional. We like where he's at. We're going to stay on him to make sure he's always pushing to try to become a better player day in and day out. But, we like where RoJo is at with his development. We like the way he's attacking the game of football. He's really into this thing. He's really into it and we're just happy to have a bunch of guys – not just RoJo – a group of guys that come to work every day, put their hand in the pile and try to do what they can to help us win football games."