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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Mike Evans Sees More Diverse Role in Bucs' New Offense

Tampa Bay's record-setting 10th-year receiver feels energized by the team's new offensive scheme, which he believes will move him around the formation more than ever and greatly increase the variety of his routes


Early in his NFL career, Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans sought some perspective from fellow Galveston, Texas native Casey Hampton, the Pittsburgh Steelers' five-time Pro Bowl nose tackle. Hampton's 12-year playing career ended two years before Evans hit the NFL in 2014 as the seventh overall pick in the draft, and the former Texas A&M star wanted to know what adjusting to the NFL would be like. Hampton told him that he would find more success year by year as the game slowed down for him to a degree he probably wouldn't believe.

"And each year it happened," said Evans on the seventh day of the Buccaneers' 2023 training camp, sounding a bit incredulous. "I swear, the game slows down for me, I'm able to make adjustments during the game. It's been cool. It comes with playing the game a lot and getting that experience."

That's as good an explanation as any as to how Evans has been so historically consistent in his career, which is now entering its 10th season. Famously, he's the first player in NFL history to surpass 1,000 yards in each of his first nine seasons, and if he makes it 10 this year he'll tie his boyhood idol, Randy Moss, for second on that list at any point in a player's career, behind only Jerry Rice.

Evans is a decade into his career but still only 29, and he says he feels better physically than he did in his early seasons as he has continued to learn new lessons as how to maintain his body. What's particularly nice for Evans on the cusp of season number 10 is that he's also energized by the new offense being installed by first-year coordinator Dave Canales. Evans has rampaged through some of the Bucs' early camp practices, which is not anything particularly new, but what is new is how he's getting that production.

"I love what Dave has brought, a different type of energy," said Evans. "He's a real interesting guy, really fun to be around. In the past, I've been moved around a lot, but in this offense I'm going to be moved around even more, so it will be harder to get a double-team on me. I'm looking forward to seeing what we are able to do this year."

Last season, saw 75% of his snaps split out wide, with about 53% of his routes coming from the right side of the offense. He also only went in motion before routes 17 times all of last season, so perhaps some of these new instances of being "moved around" will come before the snap. Compare that to teammate Chris Godwin, whose 124 routes after motion ranked second in the entire NFL to the Lions' Amon-Ra St. Brown. Plus, Canales has introduced some new wrinkles for his receivers that Evans has flat-out never encountered before, which is obviously a surprising development this far into his career.

"I'm moved all over the place," Evans reiterated. "Everybody has the same plays pretty much, it's just when to call them, they're called different things. But there's a few different routes I've never seen before and I look forward to running some of these different routes. It's going to be hard to stop some of these routes."

In 2022, Evans ran a total of 615 routes, and over 70% of them were either ins, outs, hitches or goes. He only ran a slant on 7.6% of his routes, and only was used on crossers on 3.7% of them. While Godwin was a frequent screen target, that accounted for only 3.1% of Evans' routes. Evans is looking forward to more variety in 2023, because he believes he can make an impact on every type of route. (All stats courtesy of NFL Next Gen Stats.)

"I'm going to be in more positions to get the ball, and that's what I want as a competitor, as a guy with my skillset," he said. "I want to be able to do everything. I don't want to be limited to just deep in-cuts, deep outs and go balls. I want to be able to do everything, because that's what I can do."

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