Back in the 1990s, the Dallas Cowboys built their offense around the offensive line, but most of the accolades went to their famous triplets: quarterback Troy Aikman, wide receiver Michael Irvin, and running back Emmitt Smith. The offensive line paved the way for them to dominate the league, but they certainly did that for about a five-year stretch.
Since then, the triplet framing has been a godsend for NFL writers looking for content in the down part of the offseason. Which is probably why ESPN’s Bill Barnwell took it upon himself to rate every team’s triplets. The Bucs come in at number 12, with Jameis Winston, Doug Martin and Mike Evans.
The flip side to the Colts' assessment is that the most recent year is the most important in terms of evaluation. It's all we have for Winston, who should get better in his second season after improving as a rookie. (Remember that pick-six to start the year against Tennessee?) It was a disappointing season for Evans, who struggled with his concentration and finished with a league-high 11 drops, but it was a remarkable campaign for Martin. I'm skeptical of his contract extension, given that he had been anonymous thanks to injuries in each of the previous two seasons, but Martin was a wildly effective big-play back for the Bucs last year. One of the league's youngest offensive cores should continue to rise in 2016.
This all seems pretty fair, but can we talk about the notion that Mike Evans had a disappointing season? Yes, he had a few too many frustrating drops, but he also had 74 catches for 1,206 yards and three touchdowns in 15 games. If that's a disappointing season, we have some ridiculous standards for the 22-year old wide receiver. I mean, what would a non-disappointing season look like? Are we only going to not be disappointed if he’s literally breaking records left and right? None of that is to say that he shouldn’t do better with his hands, but eesh — some perspective is certainly warranted here.
As for where the Bucs’ triplets rank — let’s see at the end of the season. As always, this can go in any direction. Jameis Winston should improve, but Doug Martin will be hard-pressed to reach last year’s level of production. And will Mike Evans cut down on his drops — and will that make a big difference? More than that: can all of these guys stay healthy for the entire season.