Jameis Winston is 21. Mike Evans is 22.
After nine games together, it appears the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have found their quarterback-receiver duo for years to come.
“That’s what we’re hoping for,” Evans said in a phone interview. “That’s the goal — to be able to play together for a long time and win a lot of games together. We have the same goal, and we’re working hard to achieve it. If everything goes as planned, no injuries or anything like that, it’s possible for us to be one of the greatest duos.”
Evans found that simpatico with Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M. In two seasons — 26 games — Evans caught 151 passes for 2,499 yards and 17 touchdowns. Some argue that Evans made Manziel as much as Manziel made Evans.
At 6-foot-5, 225 pounds, Evans is bigger, faster and stronger than most defensive backs who covered him then or who cover him now. It didn’t take Manziel or Winston long to figure that out.
Last season, Evans was overshadowed by fellow rookie Odell Beckham Jr. but had nearly as good a season playing with lesser quarterbacks than Eli Manning. Catching passes from Mike Glennon and Josh McCown for the worst team in the league, Evans, the seventh overall pick, still managed 68 catches for 1,051 yards and 12 touchdowns.
While Beckham’s circus catch against the Dallas Cowboys not only was his signature reception but also won play of the year, Evans’ best play was a crushing block on cornerback Terence Newman on a running play. Evans already has earned notice as one of the top blocking receivers in the game.
“I tell everybody this: I think we both got in real good situations,” Evans said of him and Beckham. “Our talent helped as well. That whole rookie class, it was probably one of the most talented wide receiver classes ever, if we can sustain longevity. We just got in good situations and had good people around us to help us, and we got a lot of opportunities.”
Evans started this season with a hamstring injury. He missed the opener, and in Week 2, Evans played only 38 of 64 plays, being used mostly as a decoy as he had only three targets and no catches.
Since then, Winston has targeted Evans 93 times with Evans making 44 catches for 725 yards though only two touchdowns.
“You’ve just got to play through it,” Evans said. “This game has a lot of ups and downs. I’m just blessed to be here, so I’m going to keep working.”
Evans faced criticism for the first time as a pro when he dropped six passes in a 32-18 loss to the Giants. It was the most drops in a game in the past 10 years, according to ESPN Stats & Info.
“I don’t want to sit here and make excuses,” said Evans, who had eight catches for 152 yards in the game. “I’ve just got to catch them. It was wet in the second half, but it still came down to focus. I’ve just got to make those plays, and I’ve been better. I’m confident in my hands. That’s not a problem.”
Evans has big goals for himself and his team for this season and beyond. It starts with making the playoffs this year and winning Super Bowls in the future.
“At the beginning of the year, I wanted to be All-Pro this year,” Evans said. “I don’t know if that’ll happen now. But I want to have some really good games and help this team get into the playoffs this year. I want to catch every ball that comes my way and play hard in the run game.
“My career goal is to make it to the Hall of Fame, of course, and be known as a dog on the field and a good guy off.”
My five cents
1 Johnny Manziel says all the right things and does all the wrong things. The Browns quarterback might be down to his final chance to make it in the NFL after his latest setback. After promising not to embarrass the organization during the team’s bye week, Manziel appeared on a video partying at a nightclub in Austin, and then lied about it. The former Texas A&M star, who spent 70 days in rehab in the off-season, not only lost his starting job but also was demoted to third string. He has a 1-2 record as the Browns’ starter this season.
2 Amari Cooper, the front-runner for NFL offensive rookie of the year, caught one pass for 4 yards last week while dropping two balls. His 10 drops are the second most in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus. The Raiders receiver has 51 catches for 736 yards and four touchdowns this season.
3 Colin Kaepernick is expected to need 4-6 months to rehab from a torn labrum that required surgery. The 49ers have to make a decision on Kaepernick’s 2016 contract by April 1. They will have to guarantee him $11.7 million for next season if Kaepernick remains on the roster past that date.
4 Tom Brady leads the series with Peyton Manning 11-5. They were supposed to meet a 17th time, but Manning’s injury means two of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history may have faced off for the final time.
5 Baltimore’s Justin Tucker, the NFL’s second-most accurate kicker, has not been himself this season. His career-low 78.6 success rate this season ranks only 28th in the league. The former Texas star has made only 2 of 7 attempts from 50 yards or longer, with all five misses at home.
In the past two games, Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins has completed 42 of 55 passes for 531 yards with five touchdowns and one interception.
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has completed 114 of 174 passes for 1,231 yards with seven touchdowns, six interceptions and a lost fumble the past four games. The Falcons are 1-3 in those games.
45 Drew Brees’ current streak of consecutive games with at least one touchdown pass. The Saints quarterback owns the NFL record, with a 54-game streak. His current streak began one week after the Falcons snapped it in 2012, meaning Brees has a touchdown pass in 99 of his past 100 games.
2016 NFL Draft
Dane Brugler of CBS Sports and NFLDraftScout.com gives his top-10 overall picks for the 2016 draft:
1. Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss, 6-5, 305
2. Jalen Ramsey, DB, Florida St., 6-1, 202
3. Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State, 6-5, 275
4. Myles Jack, LB, UCLA, 6-1, 245
5. Jaylon Smith, LB, N. Dame, 6-3, 240
6. Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss, 6-2, 210
7. Ronnie Stanley, OT, N. Dame, 6-6, 315
8. Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Ole Miss, 6-3, 296
9. Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis, 6-6, 230
10. Jared Goff, QB, Cal, 6-4, 210
The Titans have lost 10 in a row at home. The record is 14 consecutive home losses set by the 1988-89 Cowboys and tied by the 2008-10 Rams.
The Giants do not have a 100-yard rusher this season. Their only 100-yard rushing game as a team came against the Cowboys in Week 8.
Redskins left tackle Trent Williams has yet to allow a sack and has given up only 10 quarterback pressures, according to Pro Football Focus.
The Ravens have allowed a league-low 35 sacks the past two seasons.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has 40,944 passing yards, ranking him 13th all time. Only four other active quarterbacks — Eli Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Peyton Manning — have more than 40,000 yards passing.
The Patriots have a .796 winning percentage (86-22) in games played after Thanksgiving since 2001, the best record in the NFL over that span. The Steelers rank second at .677 (67-32).
The Cardinals have gained 400 or more yards in seven games. The 1984 team set the franchise record with nine 400-yard games.
The Bills have gone three-and-out a league-high 28.5 percent of their possessions this season.
The Chargers have 1 yard on nine punt returns this season, which is believed to be a record for futility through 10 games.
Raiders kicker Sebastian Janikowski needs one field goal of 50 yards or longer to tie Jason Hanson for the all-time lead in that category. Hanson had 52 field goals of 50 yards or longer in his career.
Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles leads all NFL quarterbacks with an average of 6.84 yards per rush.
Information from The Sports Xchange was used in this report.