On the first full-team rep that Mike Evans took at the NFC's Pro Bowl practice on Wednesday, he was lined up across from Patrick Peterson. This being a run period and, more significantly, a Pro Bowl practice, the resulting competition wasn't particularly dramatic. Evans took a few steps off the line and got into a blocking stance and Peterson acknowledged him with a point of the hand.
Evans, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' all-star receiver, and Peterson, the Arizona Cardinals' perennial Pro Bowl cornerback, had plenty of other "matchups" on Wednesday morning, but they weren't exactly sharpening each other's skills. After the one-hour workout at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex, it was pointed out to Evans that he could get something very useful from Peterson: a scouting report on the Buccaneers' new head coach Bruce Arians.
Evans said he would take that advice and, at some point this week, "pick the brain" of Peterson, who played for five seasons under Arians in Arizona (2013-17), three of them double-digit win campaigns and two of them ending in playoff berths. When that happens, Evans will probably hear something similar to what Peterson told the Tampa Bay media after practice on Wednesday; essentially, get ready to win.
"You saw what he did in Arizona," said Peterson, who had played two seasons in the NFL before Arians' arrival. "He turned around things very quickly and only in five years was the winningest coach in franchise history. Going to the NFC Championship [Game] right after a Wild Card berth…we should've went to the playoffs three of his five seasons. We won 10 games that year  and still didn't get in. Coach knows how to win games, Coach knows how to put players in the best position possible to be successful."
View some of the best photos of WR Mike Evans from Day 1 of NFC Pro Bowl practice in Orlando.
Arians was named the Buccaneers' 12th head coach on January 8 and he was formally introduced at a press conference at team headquarters on the 10th. At that time and in interviews since, Arians has emphasized that he plans to build around the talent already on hand, and that said talent is deep enough to call for a "reload" rather than a "rebuild." Certainly one of the greatest talents that Arians is inheriting is Evans, who is one of just three players in NFL history to begin his career with five consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons.
Tampa Bay's passing offense has been quite good in recent years and Evans has been the most consistent producer in that attack. Among many things the Bucs believe about their new head coach, one is that he can – as Peterson noted – get the most out of that talent. Evans is optimistic about the immediate future and intends to do his part to make sure that happens.
"They've got a good track record," said Evans of Arians and his assistants. "I've heard a lot of great things about Bruce. I'm just looking forward to it. This is going to be my third coach going on my sixth year, so it's my job to be a professional and play ball, and that's what I'm going to do.
"The coaches are going to coach but it all comes down to the players. The players are out there playing and the players are the ones that are going to make the plays, so it's on the players. We've got to be more disciplined, clean up the penalties and keep making plays like we've been [doing]."
Evans is about to participate in his second Pro Bowl, all by the age of 25. He was drafted seventh overall in 2014 and, after a fine rookie campaign that included a team-record 12 touchdown receptions, he was paired up with quarterback Jameis Winston, the first-overall pick of the 2015 draft. That has been, predictably, a productive coupling and there could be much more ahead. Arians has made it clear that Winston is the Bucs' quarterback in 2019, which he is playing on the fifth-year option of his rookie deal, and the franchise obviously hopes that this proven "quarterback whisperer" can take the young passer's game to a new level. Evans is pleased to be moving forward with Winston, who also just turned 25.
"That's what I thought all along," said Evans of the decision to move forward with Winston. "I look forward to working with Jameis. He's excited and we're looking to improve on what we started early on."
Evans referenced penalties and red zone issues as reasons the Buccaneers' prolific passing numbers, including a league-leading 334.9 aerial yards per game, haven't resulted in as many points (the Bucs were 12th in the league in scoring) or wins as one would anticipate. Evans believes the Buccaneers can clean those issues up in 2019. When he does talk to Peterson about his new head coach, Evans is going to learn that Arians will make sure those issues are addressed in no uncertain manner.
"He's a straightforward guy, and if you don't like it, hit the road, Jack, and don't you come back," said Peterson of Evans. "Coach is a straightforward guy; I love Coach dearly. Me and him still text to this day. He's definitely going to bring the best out of all of that talent you have in Tampa."