Alan Dell

DELL COMMENTARY: Mike Evans growth could make this a better draft for Bucs

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston drops back to pass during the second quarter of an NFL football game against the St. Louis Rams on Thursday, Dec. 17, 2015, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston drops back to pass during the second quarter of an NFL football game against the St. Louis Rams on Thursday, Dec. 17, 2015, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson) AP


The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have no choice but to concentrate on defense in next week's NFL draft.

Mike Evans has a choice, and if the receiver learns how to make the right one, the Bucs won't be spinning their wheels.

They can focus on defense because the offense is supposed to be ahead of the curve. Quarterback Jameis Winston had a good rookie season, running back Doug Martin is returning and the offensive line is improved.

But Evans is the wild card.

Last year he was the wild child, whining, dropping passes, not doing his job efficiently.

He admits it, which is a good sign.

"I wasn't focused some games, and I have to do that better," Evans said. "I have to practice more -- I have to get better in practice with it. It just comes with repetition. Last season is behind me."

You have to wonder if Evans appreciates what he has in Winston. Besides being talented, the quarterback has made it known he is available anytime to work out. He knows that's how the greatest NFL quarterback-receiver tandems flourished.

Winston has spent a lot of time working on his arm and timing to throw the deep ball.

The Bucs are asking Evans to go deep inside himself because it is where the

solutions to many of his problems can be found.

Many characterized Evans as a crybaby last year.

That's being kind.

He dropped too many passes and had too many temper tantrums. He couldn't separate the two just like he couldn't separate himself from defensive backs enough. Too much of his energy was wasted on fighting officials.

"If you've seen me throughout my career -- college was the same -- I play with an attitude. I play with fire. I play with passion," Evans says. "It's a difference between passion and being dumb, being hot-headed and I've got to find that happy medium, and I think I will this year. You know, getting married, it probably helped mature me, so we will see."

If marriage cured maturity problems, the divorce rate in our country wouldn't be soaring. The best hope for the 22-year-old Evans to start acting his age is Winston.

Winston showed a lot of maturity last year, leaving the childish antics he displayed at Florida State in Tallahassee. Unfortunately, Evans regressed from his rookie year.

Winston has let Evans know that he is just a phone call away any time of day.

"He's trying to find me. Everywhere I'm at, he's trying to find me, see what I'm doing. He wants to throw all the time, so he's doing the right things, and he's a workaholic," Evans says.

Winston can be a role model for Evans and the rest of the offense.

The best thing about the quarterback is that he knows leadership is not given to someone. They have to earn it.

"If you are trying to push leadership on a guy, that guy's not going to want to follow you," Winston says. "Leadership means to serve others. As long as I can serve the guys around me, I feel like I'm doing a good job of being a leader to them and I know that they're going to want to do anything for me just like I would for them."

Winston has been constantly bugging Evans to work out, but the receiver hasn't always been available.

"Even though we are both busy guys, we find time to hang out and throw when we can," Evans says. "I agree with (head coach) Dirk Koetter, our chemistry was a little off last year. Mostly, on my end though, but I feel that it won't be a problem this year."

Koetter says for the Bucs to improve on their six win season in 2015, Winston and Evans can't be just good. They need to be lethal. A lot of that falls on Evans.

"Jameis is very perceptive about not only what he needs to get better, but what our offense and what our team needs to get better," Koetter said. "That's one of the things as when you're around him more (you see), he's mature way beyond his years on that sort of thing."

Winston is trying to develop a relationship with Evans that will make for a productive environment.

"There's going to be situations where in a game, I'm going to have to look at Mike and be like, 'Mike, I need you on this play. ... So it's just developing that relationship off the field and on the field. It's good," Winston said.

The Bucs hope Evans is listening.

Alan Dell, Herald sports columnist/writer, can be reached at 941-745-7056. Follow him on Twitter @ADellSports.