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Buccaneers HC Todd Bowles: 'Priority' on getting Mike Evans involved in end zone after down season

There was no shortage of problems plaguing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 25th-ranked scoring offense in 2023.

One particularly glaring issue was the lack of an impact made by four-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Mike Evans in the end zone.

Evans hauled in just six touchdown receptions last year, his lowest total since 2017.

Bucs head coach Todd Bowles pinpointed Evans' lack of TDs as a major problem for the offense and an area of emphasis this season.

"We've got to make that a priority, obviously," Bowles said Tuesday, via team transcript. "I think we made it a priority last year -- sometimes it was shut down, sometimes we just misread it here and there, whether it was on the receiver, the [quarterback] or offensive linemen. We've got to get better in that area in getting him the football."

Tampa Bay's offense was more often than not a tough watch in 2023. The Buccaneers scored 30 or more points just twice and were held to less than 20 on a stunning 10 occasions in the regular season.

For whatever reason -- a banged-up and struggling offense line, a dead-last running game, questionable play-calling, sometimes skittish play from Tom Brady -- the Bucs sputtered through a disappointing season.

Evans was able to add to his unbelievable NFL record with a ninth consecutive 1,000-yard receiving season to start his career, but his end zone inefficiency mirrored that of the offense as a whole.

In 15 games, Evans' 2022 season line ended up with 77 receptions, 1,124 yards and the aforementioned six TDs -- which were a team high. At first glance, those numbers are hardly problematic, but Evans' TD tally was a huge drop-off from his past two seasons with Brady and then-offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich.

Evans set career highs with 13 and then 14 touchdown catches in 2020 and 2021, respectively. He was a monster in the end zone, but disappeared in all but three games in 2022.

Of his six TDs, two came in a Week 4 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs and three came in a Week 17 win over the Carolina Panthers. The latter was a huge performance that was particularly upsetting for fantasy owners in championship games who had likely given up on Evans by that point.

Reality dictates that Evans' scoring production must rebound in 2023 if the Bucs are to rebound offensively. With Baker Mayfield or Kyle Trask in line to start at quarterback, having the 6-foot-5 Evans battle for contested catches and going up and grabbing TDs will be crucial.

Already making matters all the more optimistic is the improved health of longtime teammate Chris Godwin. Godwin believes he's finally finding his stride with a second post-ACL surgery offseason under his belt.

Better production from both bodes well for Tampa Bay.

"We know [Evans is] a threat and we know he's a great player," Bowles said, "so we've got to constantly find ways -- not just him, but Chris as well -- we've got to find ways to get those guys the ball."

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