Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston found himself apologizing to receiver Mike Evans this week, according to reporters, despite the fact that he launched a 42-yard touchdown pass Evans’ way last week.
Winston, despite targeting Evans a team-high 115 times this season for 839 yards, keeps seeing missed opportunities to get him the ball.
“Every time I watch film, I find myself like, ‘Mike, I should have thrown you the ball,’” Winston said, according to the Tampa Bay Times. “I’ve got people tweeting me, ‘Get Mike the ball.’ I tell Mike, ‘Mike, I’m sorry.’
“You guys can shred me up for the whole year for not giving him that chance (more often). I will take it because that’s the truth. … In that situation, when Mike is one-on-one or no one is around him, I’ve got to give him a chance. That is really on me.”
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The 42-yard score was Evans’ longest of the season.
But Sunday, Winston won’t have any reason not to try to get Evans the ball.
In fact, it’s become kind of a necessity.
Tampa Bay receiver DeSean Jackson has been ruled out with an ankle injury, after 668 yards receiving season to date. Rookie tight end O.J. Howard is also out.
So Winston will have to rely on Evans and a banged-up Cameron Brate to get his offense moving, especially because their 27th-ranked rushing offense has not been able to lay much, ah, “groundwork” all year and will likely struggle against Carolina’s No.5-ranked defensive line.
Evans and Brate will match up against a Panthers secondary that will have Captain Munnerlyn back in the little nickel and feature either Shaq Thompson (questionable for Sunday with plantar fasciitis) or Colin Jones in the big nickel, rotating for either Thompson or David Mayo in the traditional linebacker package. (Starter Thomas Davis is suspended this week).
The two bookend second-year cornerbacks, Daryl Worley and James Bradberry, will especially be a tough test. They have a pick apiece in the last four games (four total) and will want to key in on Winston, who has thrown eight interceptions in 11 games.