TAMPA — Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith spent a lot of time just watching football during his year away from the game in 2013. One of the things he noticed was the difficulty defenses have stopping two big wideouts.
“It’s a tough matchup for them,’’ Smith said. “It’s as simple as that.’’
Smith made a point Thursday of creating just such a matchup for Buccaneers’ opponents by selecting Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans with the seventh overall selection in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Tampa Bay passed on a chance to select Evans’ college teammate, Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Johnny Manziel, but Smith quickly pointed out that he believes his team is set at the quarterback position. And not just for now.
“It’s about what’s best for us,’’ Smith said when asked about passing on Manziel, who was selected 22nd overall by the Cleveland Browns. “You talk about our quarterback position, to me it’s as strong as any quarterback position that I’ve had as a head coach.
“You know how much I like Josh McCown as our starter here. But I love Mike Glennon. And Mike Glennon is our quarterback of the future here. So why would we want to add a third quarterback to the mix? We needed other positions.’’
The greatest of those needs was wide receiver. Following the trade of wideout Mike William to the Bills earlier in the offseason, the Bucs were left with just one starting-caliber wideout.
That was the 6-foot-5, 230-pound Vincent Jackson, their leading pass catcher each of the past two years. Now, Jackson will be teamed with a virtual clone in the 6-5, 231-pound Evans.
“We have our twin towers now,’’ Bucs general manager Jason Licht said. “We couldn’t be happier to have him on our team. This is what we wanted.’’
It appears to be what Evans wanted, too. He had a feeling he was being targeted by the Bucs as the draft approached and considers himself “blessed’’ to be chosen by them.
“I was hoping I’d go to Tampa, because I feel it’s a great fit for me,’’ said Evans, who broke down in tears after his name was announced by commissioner Roger Goodell.
“I was trying not to cry. I told everyone I wouldn’t cry. But it just hit me right then and there and I couldn’t hold it back. It was just that this is my dream come true.’’
Smith has dreamt of an offense that included Evans for almost a year, saying he first noticed Evans while watching Texas A&M games at his Chicago home last season.
“How could you not notice him?’’ Smith asked rhetorically. “He played with the Heisman Trophy winner and you see him and ask yourself, ‘Who is this big guy who continues to catch touchdowns and make big plays against top competition each week?’
“And then, at the combine, you get a chance to talk with him, meet him, and then you do the research and talk to all the people that you trust and you just know that he would fit into our locker room here.’’
Evans is expected to step in immediately as a starter for the Bucs, who have all but replicated the situation McCown worked in a year ago in Chicago when he had Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery as his top two targets.
McCown threw 13 touchdown passes and only one interception while compiling a 109.0 passer rating in eight games, including five starts. Giving him two big targets again in Tampa, Smith said, was one of the Bucs’ goals.
“Josh has been in that situation, and to say that he has been in our ear about that is quite an understatement,’’ Smith said. “So, having seen that work, it was attractive to us.’’
Even more attractive, though, were the problems the Bucs believe they create for opponents, who now face the challenge of blanketing two tall, speedy, physical pass catchers.
“Like I said, it’s a tough matchup,’’ Smith said. “If you look at the average height of most corners in the league, you might have a six-foot corner, but you normally don’t have two big guys that can match up like that.’’
Licht said the Bucs, who have five picks remaining, considered opportunities to trade down in the first round to add more picks, but considered the chance to grab Evans far more valuable.
“We’re always looking to make sure that all scenarios are covered and we’ll continue to do it,’’ Licht said. “We’ll call ahead and see what people are looking for.’’
In the meantime, Licht and Smith will continue doing what they did in the moments after they secured the services of Evans, which is celebrate the fact they got what they were looking for.
“It was an easy decision for us,’’ Smith said of picking Evans. “Jason and I, we don’t have a lot of vertical (leaping ability), but we high-fived it pretty high in there when we were able to make this pick.’’