Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans learned a tough lesson Saturday night against the Dolphins — that the NFL is a much faster game than college (even the SEC) and that he can’t rely solely on his right arm. He had just leapt over the middle and run 41 yards, crossing into the end zone as cornerback Brent Grimes knocked the ball loose.
Having lined up exclusively on the right side of all his formations at Texas A&M, he always carried the ball in his right arm. Only Saturday, during the second preseason game, he was lined up on the left, giving Grimes an opportunity to dislodge the ball from Evans’ arm.
“I didn’t know he was going to make a play on it. But he did. He surprised me. [I need to] just have the in my outside arm and I’ll be fine,” Evans said. “I wasn’t comfortable holding it in my left, so that’s another thing I need to practice — holding the ball in my left or my outside arm, whatever sideline I’m on.”
Head coach Lovie Smith said that he was not aware of this when the team drafted Evans. “It doesn’t really matter, to be truthful. He’s gonna have to do it now,” Smith said. “We’ll start working with him more to put it in his outside arm now. Learning to catch the football is a hard thing. Putting it in your other arm won’t be very hard for us to do.”
When he was growing up, he watched Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith, who always carried the ball in his left arm, so he always held onto it in his right, where it felt most natural.
It was the first time Evans, who clocked a 4.53 at the NFL Scouting Combine but vowed he had faster game speed, was ever been caught from behind. “It was a learning experience and it will never happen again. Hopefully.”
He isn’t dwelling on the fumble though, and is looking forward to having more mismatches out on the field, and getting the opportunity to mix it up by lining up in the slot, a spot usually reserved for smaller, shiftier receivers.
“If they have a linebacker on me, I’m fast enough to beat them, or a safety. If they have a nickel corner on me, smaller, I can use my big body to win.”