When quarterback Tom Brady signed with the Buccaneers, many assumed that receiver Mike Evans would benefit as much, if not more, than anyone.
It hasn’t happened.
Brady has targeted Evans, on average, 5.77 times per game. In four different games this season, Brady has targeted Evans fewer than five times.
On Thursday, Brady addressed the ongoing efforts to get Evans more involved.
“He’s a spectacular player and I think from my perspective, it’s just me giving him opportunities to touch the ball, catch it and figuring out different ways based on different styles of defense that we’re getting that enable him to touch it,” Brady told reporters regarding Evans. “He’s an incredible player when he gets it and he’s an incredible player before he gets it. [We’re] working hard at it and again, I wish I’d be making every throw exactly the way I want. The only thing I can say is we’re trying to get it right, trying to figure out how to get everybody involved and put together a lot of different pieces that have never been together – including myself.”
Brady attributes the inability to connect more frequently with Evans to the fact that they have little experience together.
“I think the great advantage in football in continuity,” Brady said. “I’ve learned a lot over the years [and] continuity in the NFL is so important with coach [and] quarterback [and] what you’re trying to be as a team. A lot of situations you’re in over years and years – we just haven’t been in those together. I might’ve been in a lot of situations, Byron [Leftwich] has been in a lot of situations, [Bruce Arians] has been in a lot of situations [and] the receivers here have been in a lot of different situations, but we’re just trying to make it happen together. You’re going up against other teams that have the continuity, and that’s the disadvantage. But we have to try and make up for it as best we can. The only way I know how to do it is to work at it and work even harder. Every day that goes by, you have to work harder and harder and never take the foot off the gas pedal. Then, just make the improvements we’ve got to make and go out there and compete. If it’s not good enough, it’s not good enough [and] you have to do better. But, there’s no part of me that thinks, ‘Yeah, let’s ease off. Let’s not work quite as hard today because we’ve been overworking.’ I just think [to] get after it more.”
On Wednesday, coach Bruce Arians attributed Evans’ limited receptions not to lack of continuity but to Evans’ injuries and Brady not having time to work through his reads. So what can Brady do to get Evans more involved, according to Arians?
“Just throw it to him,” Arians said. “The key is where the quarterback reads it out. Some guy may be open on this side, but the coverage tells him to go to the other side. It’s just a matter of we have plenty of weapons – throw to the guy that’s open.”
As Brady tells it, it’s not nearly that easy. Brady needs to have a level of familiarity and trust before taking the leap of faith. Arians seems to want Brady to just let the footballs fly. It’s one of the more subtle tension points between coach and quarterback as they try their best to get the most out of their first season together.