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."
View the top photos of WR Mike Evans from the 2018 season
Evans had come into training camp in 2018 in the best shape of his career. No matter if the ball was coming to him or not, he ran each route to its full capacity. The result paid off and Evans had yet another banner year, giving him that now infamous Pro Bowl opportunity to show off his outside corner capabilities.
"I'm always trying to challenge myself and be a better player," Evans said. "What better way to make a mark in this league than by playing both ways?"
...oh, and if you hadn't caught on already, April Fools!