Although the Buccaneers did have a disappointing 5-11 season in 2017, some positives did emerge. When Tampa Bay selected Justin Evans out of Texas A&M with the 50th pick in the draft, many fans thought it was a reach and were worried about how he would translate to the NFL. I would say that after his first season, the Buccaneers feel like they have a pretty good free safety for the foreseeable future.
It took Evans until week five to get the full time starting job as he was still learning the defense, but once he got it, he never looked back. In his first start of the season, Evans intercepted Tom Brady. As a defensive back, I don’t think you can ask for a better way to get the first interception of your career. In 11 starts last season, Evans had three interceptions and 66 total tackles, with 50 of them being solo. One thing that stood out to me, was his ball hawking ability. I think it was a pleasant surprise that Evans had three interceptions in his rookie season.
Defensive back is one of the harder positions to learn as a rookie and it takes a while, especially in Mike Smith’s defense, to really get accustomed to it. Evans, who is going into his second season, feels like he is miles ahead of where he was at this point last offseason.
“Pretty much just having a better concept of the defense and what we’re trying to do,” Evans said. “You’re more acclimated with the guys in the locker room. You’re developing bonds with each and every one so it’s just a better feel walking around and just being in your second year.”
We all know that the team needed to add talent not only along the defensive line, but also in the secondary. Evans, who is only one year removed from the rookie process, has been really impressed with how Carlton Davis, M.J. Stewart and Jordan Whitehead have performed during OTA’s.
“ As far as knowing their information when we’re in the meeting rooms – they get called on and have to go up to the board and draw defenses and stuff. It was much better than I was at this time when I was here last year, so that’s really impressive,” Evans said. “Then of course on the field, they’re here for a reason so they obviously can make plays and they’ve been making plays. They’ve been doing good, all of them.”
That should be good to hear for Buccaneer fans because we all know that last season, the secondary was abysmal outside of one or two players. Hopefully, with an improved pass rush and added talent in the secondary, Evans can be even more aggressive than he was last season and continue to make plays that will help this team win football games.