The NFL offseason is like a pack of saltines to tide you over until your next meal. You don’t really want it. No one believes that you do or even expects you to. The only problem is, you start to get hungry. You can’t go without anything to feed on for five whole months.
It’s that appetite which makes us cling to every bit of news, rumor, speculation and meaningless prediction we can get our fingers on. We don’t like the taste of any of it. Even if it sounds good, you’re still dipping a saltine in ketchup. It’s still unimportant, but it’s all you’ve got. All of that has finally come to an end now. The meal we wait for all year is getting closer. It’s not dinnertime just yet, but they let us taste the appetizer. The NFL Draft is just that: a taste. We get to really start to see what Lovie Smith and Jason Licht are cooking for us in the 2014 season.
I’ve got to say, it sounds appetizing. The suspense has ended, and the first bite tastes like offense. It tastes like a balanced and deadly offense. Every respectable Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan is already aware that with the seventh pick of the 2014 NFL Draft, we selected Mike Evans. The six-foot-five beast of a wideout has received mixed reviews depending on who you go to. Most of the criticism to Evans has been about his route running, but that’s really just a product of the offense he existed in.
When you’ve got the absolute unpredictability that is Johnny Manziel, your route running falls apart along with your quarterback. Evans had a situation similar to what Vincent Jackson experienced in that there weren’t other targets near as threatening as him. Evans’ routes may not be perfect, but even if they were, he’s learning a brand new offense. A new offense that has a ruggedness I’m in favor of.
Mike Evans may be a ‘Vincent Jackson Clone,’ but a younger version of Vincent Jackson who is fresh with the experienced version of himself to learn from isn’t necessarily a bad thing. As much as we all would’ve liked Sammy Watkins to spread the field, especially based on the impressions Tedford’s history a Cal gave, that may not be at all what they’re looking for. Josh McCown is a much better quarterback than some give him credit for, and with a coaching staff that has complete faith in him, McCown could shine like never before.
Here’s the catch amongst all this. The most important part of our offense is the part no one is talking about right now. The position that there was zero chance of us going after in the first round, and possibly in the entire draft. The Three Headed RB combination of Martin, James, and Rainey is going to rip offenses apart next year. As soon as they start to focus on our versatile run game, you’ve got a definitive duo at wideout that is ready to fight for the openings that the fear of our run game will create.
Evans is not a perfect player, but at only 20 years old he has immense room to grow. He has improved consistently in college, and I have no doubt he’ll do the same at a new level. This is the moment when I truly despise the speculation prior to the draft the most. It makes picks like this feel less meaningful. Evans has been overanalyzed and overpredicted to the point that this pick feels less spectacular, but in four months it’ll become very clear how big of a deal it is for our offense.
On a note about the rest of our division, the Falcons picking up Jake Matthews will be a serious test for our defensive line. I have faith in the line, but how well they work together will be on blast if Matthews makes the impact I expect him to. Brandin Cooks was a solid wideout choice for the Saints and makes an offense, previously just a Jimmy Graham, that picked us apart last year a little more lethal. Fortunately, our run game can take them any day of the week, and our defensive scheme will easily be more solid and well-executed than last year by leaps and bounds. Carolina decided to go with Kelvin Benjamin, which I’m sure shocked all of seven people on God’s green earth. I expect their offense to grasp at straws, even with the new addition. It’ll be nice to watch our defense shut down Carolina, Cammy Cam, and his one receiver more than once this season.
The selection of Mike Evans is only a sampler of what our offense will be this year, and a small part of the draft itself. Now that the draft is complete, things will be more clear about just how the team will shape up come the regular season. We’re not there yet though. The opening of the regular season is still just under four months away. This opening taste has got us hooked, but the rest of the offseason has prep and true evaluation to really warm us up going into the season. Contrary to fear about his flaws and similarities to Jackson, Evans is a true asset to this offense. Just because the talking heads over on the television are in favor of him, does not necessarily mean he’s an overrated player. Evans takes our passing game up a notch.
In the end, I have the utmost faith in the regime that is making decision for our team right now. Between Lovie, Licht, and Tedford, I absolutely want Mike Evans if they do. Call it a cop out if you want, but they didn’t just grab him because the mock drafts said so. They want Mike Evans in this offense, and they got exactly that. Now it’s time to wait a few more days so that we can wait a few more months. The NFL Draft may is just the first taste of our appetizer. If Mike Evans is any indication however, be ready for a succulent season. I don’t know about y’all, but 11-5 seems to be getting closer and closer to being on the menu with every move the Bucs make.