In recent days, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have made note of two interesting facts regarding a pair of very young players on their roster. First, 21-year-old quarterback Jameis Winston became the youngest player ever to pass for 3,000 yards in a season when he surpassed that mark in Week 14 against New Orleans. Four days later in St. Louis, 22-year-old wide receiver Mike Evans crossed the 1,000-yard receiving mark, making him just the second player to do that twice before the age of 23, the first being Randy Moss.
Photos of QB Jameis Winston in a victory over the New Orleans Saints on September 20th.
Evans was the seventh player selected in the 2014 NFL Draft, and Winston went first overall a year later. Given their age and immediate success in the NFL, it's easy to envision them remaining teammates for a long time in Tampa. If so, they are off to a fantastic start together. In fact, Winston and Evans have formed the first QB-WR duo since at least 1952* to connect for at least 50 completions in a season in which both are 22 or younger.
(In 1952, Billy Howton of the Green Bay Packers caught 53 passes at the age of 22. That year, 22-year-old quarterback Babe Parilli completed 77 passes, splitting time under center with Tobin Rote. While it is unlikely that 50 or more of Parilli's 77 completions went to Howton, play-by-plays and game-by-game records from that season are not readily available, so it cannot be completely disproven here.)
When made aware of his own achievement on Tuesday, Evans, who was a huge fan of Randy Moss as a kid, mostly dismissed the notion that he was breaking any new ground.
"That's cool, [but] it's just age," said Evans. "Odell [Beckham Jr.] did it as well, but he's a couple months older than me. It's just age. It doesn't really matter."
Evans is right that 22 years old is an arbitrary cutoff, and that the Giants' Beckham has been just as impressive at a similarly young age. Still, from the Buccaneers' point of view, Evans' production at such an early age is a strong sign that there are great things ahead for the former Texas A&M star. And, more importantly, he has a chance to develop alongside a quarterback who has just as much long-term potential. Evans does not dismiss the importance of that pairing, along with several other young standouts on offense.
"It excites me a lot," he said. "We're very young. The sky is the limit for us. If we put in the work and stay disciplined and not beat ourselves we can be a dangerous team for a long time.
"Jameis is going to be a great player in this league for a long time. We fell short this past week, but hopefully we're together for a long time and we can just put up numbers for a long time and win a lot of games. That's the goal and it's possible."
In the Bucs' most recent outing in St. Louis, Winston and Evans hooked up nine times for 157 yards. Tampa Bay's offense took too much time to find its rhythm against the Rams and thus a furious fourth-quarter comeback ultimately failed, but it was still a nice preview of what the future may hold for Winston and Evans.
"They were blitzing a lot and I had a lot of one-on-one matchups, so he was finding me," said Evans. "I love that he has that trust in me, just like I have trust in him. We can be a great combo."