There is only one player in the history of the NFL to record 1,000 yards receiving in each of his first nine seasons in the NFL. That man is Mike Evans.
Evans has been holding it down for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver room since Day 1. He has caught passes from Josh McCown, Mike Glennon, Jameis Winston, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Tom Brady.
It hasn't mattered who has been under center in order for Evans to produce. What has been even more remarkable is he has been mostly a one man show for a lot of that time.
However, in recent years, the emergence of Chris Godwin has given the Bucs a legitimate 1-2 punch on the outside. Godwin with his immaculate route running and reliable hands pairs perfectly with the physicality and size of Evans.
They are a duo that saw Winston and Brady put up historic passing numbers while throwing them the rock. If they can stay healthy, they should produce once again in 2023.
Buccaneers WR corps is one of the best in the NFL
Before 2022 began, the Bucs added a 3rd piece to the wideout puzzle, the speedy deep threat. This came in the form of a 3-year deal for Russell Gage who came over from the division rival Atlanta Falcons.
Unfortunately, the injury bug wreaked havoc on Gage and Godwin who was still recovering from his torn ACL.
So it would be good news to hear that the day of this writing, Gage caught a 40-yard TD in practice. His ability to take the top off of defenses will be crucial to opening up the intermediate stuff for Godwin and will allow Evans to work his best outside one-on-one.
The biggest question surrounding the Tampa Bay offense in trainng camp is who will start under center. Baker Mayfield is believed to have the edge, but Kyle Trask is having a strong camp so far and reportedly is closing the gap.
Gage remarked that both guys have been throwing good deep balls this summer. That's a reassuring thought.
While I believe Mayfield will win the job, either man will have elite weapons to utilize around them. However, their most reliable target will be Godwin.
His ability to get open on a wide variety of routes should not be ignored. He will always make himself available on those 3rd and mediums or 2nd and longs. When the ball does come his way you can pretty much comfortably pencil in a catch with how sure his hands are.
He had 22% of the targets thrown last season and I actually expect that number to rise a few points this season. The Bucs offense needs to find more balance this year, which means when they do throw the football I expect them to target guys they trust most.
Another factor in Godwin and Gage both possibly having very good years is Mayfield's ability to get out of the pocket and improvise. This improvisation should suit Godwin and Gage who can use their athleticism and route running abilities to shake free for some unplanned magic.
Evans would also thrive in those scenarios as well. We just have to look at his time at Texas A&M with Johnny Manziel who would scramble every chance he could get and chuck it up to Mike.
The above trio will be the centerpiece of the Bucs passing game this season. However, an ever improving tight end group will have a role to play.
Among wide outs lower on the depth chart, rookie speedster Trey Palmer could also get a chance to stretch some defenses if he has a strong camp. The Bucs also signed veteran David Moore to flesh out the depth of the position.
Moore isn't anything remarkable, but he has made plays at this level and that can never be turned away.
It won't matter if Baker Mayfield or Kyle Trask get the start in Week 1. What will be set in stone is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will boast one of the best wide receiver groups around. Overlook them at your own peril opposing defenses.