Where to begin with the Bucs’ ‘X’ receiver in Mike Evans? He had a banner year – and not just on the stat sheet or in the record books. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better all-around good-guy than Evans, who does as much off the field as he does on it.
Let’s get down to the statistical side of Mike Evans’ season, which was his best yet. Not only did Evans nab a career-high 1,524 receiving yards for the year, that total also broke Mark Carrier’s nearly 30-year-old franchise record for most receiving yards in a single season. Moreover, it marked Evans’ fifth-straight season with 1,000 or more yards, putting him in the NFL record books as only the third receiver to ever accomplish the feat. He’s now in the company of Randy Moss and the Bengals’ A.J. Green in that category.
Thanks to two touchdowns in the Bucs’ last game of the year, Evans also led the team in receiving touchdowns, grabbing eight on the season. He broke the franchise record set by tight end Jimmie Giles for most career touchdown receptions early in the year when he caught a 24-yard touchdown, the 35th of his career, in Week Three against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday Night Football. He was Tampa Bay’s most targeted receiver with 138 on the year with the next closest player being wide receiver Adam Humphries, who was targeted 105 times. While those numbers may seem a little low, consider that Evans was one of four receivers to amass more than 750 yards for the Buccaneers this season.
Broaden the scope and Evans has some even more impressive numbers at the league level. He had the third-most receiving yards of any receiver this year, behind only Julio Jones and DeAndre Hopkins. What’s crazy is that he did it on significantly less receptions. Given the number of receiving weapons the Bucs had, Evans didn’t get as many chances as the two players ahead of him in the receiving yards category. Evans had an average of 5.4 receptions per game, whereas Jones and Hopkins had averages of 7.1 and 7.2, respectively. Evans’ yards per reception are a whopping 17.7, where he ranks second among qualified receivers to teammate DeSean Jackson, who has an 18.9 average. His air yards per catch also rank second behind Jackson, where Evans has 14.4 and Jackson has 14.5. But here’s where he separates himself: Evans leads the league in total air yards, with 1,242, ahead of both Jones (1,224) and Hopkins (1,185).
Let’s take a look at some of Evans’ best plays throughout the course of the season below.
A 24-yard touchdown like this one isn’t the flashiest we’ve seen from Evans, believe it or not, but this one was certainly significant. It was Evans’ 35th touchdown of his Buccaneers career, which broke tight end Jimmie Giles’ previous record of 34. Evans lines up on the outside of a two by two formation at the bottom of your screen. Evans is one-on-one with the corner lined up about nine yards off the line of scrimmage, who seems to be trying to read quarterback Jameis Winston’s eyes rather than sticking to Evans. While Evans looks to initially be going vertical, he instead cuts to a corner route, which the corner doesn’t quite pick up on right away, causing him to have to play catchup. Safety help comes in but given his initial mark on the near-side hash, the defender has way more ground to cover by the time he recognizes where the ball is going. Evans is able to beat both and nab the catch in the end zone for the score.
This was on third-and-20 after the Bucs were hit with an offensive holding penalty. Tampa Bay lined up in an empty formation with trips to quarterback Jameis Winston's right, signaling they weren't going the conservative route on such a long down. Veteran linebacker Terrell Suggs was able to flush Winston out of the pocket, coming straight up the middle, causing Winston to roll towards his right - at first. Winston then switches directions, scrambling off to his left. Evans is at the top of your screen running what looks to be a dig before he realizes Winston has gone rogue. He makes it a point to then turn vertically as Winston buys time and by the time the ball is thrown, he has just one defender on him on the numbers. Winston throws a dime and Evans is in for the touchdown, rainy, wet conditions and all.
Another reception, another record broken for Evans. In the last game of the season, in the very first quarter, wide receiver Mike Evans broke Mark Carrier's nearly 30-year-old Bucs record for most receiving yards in a single season. Evans only needed five yards to do it coming in the game, but he went for a few more on that completion alone, nabbing the 19-yard pass to seal the deal. Evans ended up with 106 yards and two touchdowns in the Bucs' last game of the season.
Off the Field:
As noted above, Evans is about as good of a guy off the field as he is a player on it. The most recent acts of kindness came at the end of the year through his Mike Evans Family Foundation, when he hosted three back-to-back holiday events for underserved members of the Tampa Bay community. It included a charity bowling tournament benefitting the foundation’s scholarship fund, serving dinner and spending time with children in a residential shelter for neglected or abused children and hosting 13 Jr. Bucs who had made good grades for a tour and surprise gifts of gaming consoles.
It was a continuation of the generosity Evans showed all year. When several Bucs players chipped in to help a Tampa woman they had met through a Social Justice visit to Abe Brown Ministries get a car, Evans, who wasn’t on the initial visit, readily contributed. He spent time with Special Olympics athletes in training camp and brought in Gold Star military families for those that had lost a family member on active duty. He garnered support for victims of The Jacksonville Landing shooting through a friendly game of Madden with gamer Young Kiv and contributed $11,000 to a family whose story he saw on Twitter.