<
>

Bucs WR Mike Evans slims down, vows to make other improvements

TAMPA, Fla. -- Jameis Winston wasn't the only Tampa Bay Buccaneers player to slim down before training camp. Third-year wide receiver Mike Evans did, too, and he's loving the results.

"I got my weight down," Evans said after Wednesday's practice. "This is the lightest I've been since college -- around 220. I feel real good."

Last season, Evans, who is 6-foot-5, was listed at 231 pounds. He didn't like the way he felt during the team's offseason conditioning program, though. "In OTAs, I felt slow and heavy," said Evans, who lost the weight by monitoring what he ate more closely. "Now I feel good, like I can run all day."

Getting in shape wasn't his only goal for training camp, and he has a list of things he wants to continue working on, such as getting low in his routes, improving his flexibility, bettering his concentration and, of course, catching the ball.

The catching thing has been an issue for Evans -- at least it was last year.

In 2015, he had 1,206 receiving yards, which was 11th in the league. But he caught only 50 percent of his targets -- the lowest percentage of anyone who reached 1,000 yards. Almost every other 1,000-yard receiver was between 8 and 20 percentage points better than Evans, with only T.Y. Hilton (53 percent), Emmanuel Sanders (56 percent) and Allen Robinson (54 percent) near Evans' mark.

Evans also led the league with 11 drops, one more than Amari Cooper, and was tied for third in the league with the fewest receptions per target at 50 percent (74 catches, 148 targets). In the Bucs' 32-18 loss to the New York Giants, he had eight catches for 152 yards. But he also had six drops, which -- according to ESPN Stats & Info -- was the most by a player in a single game in 10 years.

In 2014, Evans had 1,051 receiving yards, was targeted fewer times (118) and caught nearly 58 percent of his passes. He also benefited from playing alongside a healthy Vincent Jackson, who routinely would draw opposing teams' top defenders, including in the red zone.

Jackson missed six games last season; at times Evans appeared frazzled, and his red zone production fell off. He had three touchdowns last year versus 12 the year before.

Todd Monken, the Bucs' offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach, told Tampa Bay Sports Radio 620 WDAE that he thought Evans' drops were more mental than anything.

"To me, a lot of it is more anxiety," Monken said Wednesday. "Mike is wound pretty tight. He puts a lot of pressure on himself. He wants to be a really good player. He counts on himself to be a really good player. You watch the games and it's amazing how one drop leads to another drop and leads to another drop."

To correct the drops and improve the chemistry between receiver and quarterback, Evans and Winston spent time together this offseason. The fact that he does not have to learn a new offense also should help with the anxiety.