We’ve already seen the NFL’s top two receivers have their way with the Green Bay Packers’ defensive secondary this season. Will the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers be a showcase for another of the league’s star receivers?
Behind Julio Jones and Antonio Brown, the third best receiver in the NFL is arguably the Buccaneers’ Mike Evans, the Giants’ Odell Beckham, Jr., the Bengals’ A.J. Green, or the Texans’ DeAndre Hopkins. Sorry, I’ve had to drop Jordy Nelson off the list based on his 2017 stats. In 2016, the two first team AP All-Pro receivers were Jones and Brown; the two second-team selections were Mike Evans and Odell Beckham, Jr.
The gigantic Evans was for two years the primary target of Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M. After just his sophomore year of eligibility, he entered the 2014 NFL draft. He turned 24 in August.
Evans was drafted seventh overall in 2014, and he’s lived up to that billing. As a rookie he grabbed 56 catches for 1,051 yards and 12 touchdowns. In 2015, he had 74 catches for 1,206 yards and three TDs – even though he missed two games. Last year, he had 96 catches for 1,321 yards and 12 TDs – he was the fourth-ranked receiver in yardage, and tied for second in touchdowns.
So far in 2017, he has 51 catches for 702 yards and four TDs. That ties him for 16th in receiving yardage, with Rob Gronkowski and Davante Adams. Evans has missed a game on the year, however, so his yardage per game played ranks 13th, whereas by that measure Davante Adams is currently 22nd.
In his rookie season Evans ranked 19th in the league in yardage. In his second year, he moved up to 11th. Last year he came in fourth – followed by Antonio Brown, Jordy Nelson, Brandin Cooks, and Amari Cooper. His slight drop off this year is partly explainable – QB Jameis Winston has played in only eight games. He hasn’t played since injuring his shoulder against the Saints on November 5.
Winston is set to return against the Packers, however, so are we in for another virtuoso receiver performance?
Here’s how Green Bay has done this year against other star receivers:
Julius Jones (ATL) – 5 catches, 108 yards
Antonio Brown (PIT) – 10 catches, 169 yards, 2 TDs
A.J. Green (CIN) – 10 catches, 111 yards, 1 TD
Adam Thielen (MIN) – 9 catches, 96 yards
Golden Tate (DET) – 7 catches, 113 yards
Marvin Jones (DET) – 7 catches, 107 yards, 2 TDs
Michael Thomas (NO) – 7 catches, 82 yards
Ted Ginn – 7 catches (NO), 141 yards
Dez Bryant (DAL) – 5 catches, 52 yards
Many of the above receptions came at the expense of Davon House. I was glad to see House return to the Packers this year, and still am, but he’s simply an average athlete who struggles mightily against more athletic receivers.
So keep your eye on No. 13 for the Bucs on Sunday. He won’t be hard to spot, as the 6”5” 231-pounder will have about six inches and 35 pounds on most of Green Bay’s defensive backs.
At times like this, oh how I miss Sam Shields!
I predict Packers win in OT 26-20