The Ravens acquisition of Evans is intended to provide a field-stretcher to the Ravens offense. Evans had a very difficult year in 2010 with only 37 catches, 4 TDs (including 3 in the game at Baltimore), and an injury that caused him to miss the last 3 games and change.
I looked at the video of the 2010 passes for which he was the targeted receiver (source Gamebook) and recorded some basic elements. Specifically, where he lined up, the opponent that had coverage responsibility, his location on the field, the yards from the line of scrimmage (LoS) for each catch, and the YAC for each catch.
Let’s start with a game-by-game review to get a sense of opposing coverage and results:
· Week 1 vs. Mia: Allen had primary coverage responsibility for Evans (LE) and followed him to the left or right side. Edwards was the week 1 starter for the Bills and targeted LE 8 times. Allen held LE to 4 catches for 34 yards, but dropped a sure pick-6 (Q4, 1:43) which would have sealed the game. Miami hung on 15-10.
· Week 2 at GB: Woodson’s 24-yard PI was the only time Evans was targeted all day. I did not watch the game all the way through to see how the Packers distributed cover responsibility.
· Week 3 at NE: Fitzpatrick was installed as the starter. McCourty and Arrington split responsibility for LE with Arrington staying at RCB and McCourty at LCB. There were 2 plays that stood out to me in this game. Fitz threw a fade route to LE that Arrington attempted to defend without ever turning to look for the ball. It was a fairly blatant faceguard that went unflagged. With the game all but out of reach (38-23, Q4, 4:51), the Pats ran a corner blitz with Arrington rushing off LE. Fitz hit LE 8 yards from the LoS and he added 7 YAC. For the game, LE was targeted 8 times with 5 completions for 54.
· Week 4 vs. NYJ: Revis was not active and Cromartie was assigned as Evans’ shadow on every play. LE had a very frustrating day with 1 meaningless catch for 6 yards in the final minute. To make matters worse, Evans had drops on consecutive plays (beginning Q4, 14:37).
· Week 5 vs. Jax: Coverage assignments were split. David Jones surrendered LE’s first TD of the season (Q1, 13:09), a 45-yard pass he hauled in at the 18 with tremendous separation. Primary coverage responsibility shifted to Derek Cox although Evans continued to line up on the left side for most of the remainder of the game. Evans was targeted 7 more times for 42 yards, but did not produce another play longer than 12 yards. A pretty play to review if you have NFL Rewind is LE’s sideline grab (Q3, 12:31). He went up for the ball, made the catch, and tapped his toes in bounds anticipating a hit all the way. The Bills would lose their 5th straight game 36-26.
· Week 9 vs. Chi: The Bears split responsibility for LE with Tillman at RCB and Jennings at LCB. He was targeted 8 times for 31 yards, but the game had several memorable plays. LE went up to catch as ball in traffic (Q2, 9:05) between the numbers and left hash. He had a ball stripped loose by Tillman (Q2, 1:34) that would have resulted in a gain of 15+. Later (Q4, 11:50) he fought off an attempted strip by Jennings for a gain of 13. The Bills lost their 8th straight game, 22-19.
· Week 10 vs. Det: The Bills won their first game, 14-12 over the Lions. LE lined up on both outsides as well as the slot. His 43-yard catch (Q2, 14:22) came with a trips right formation with him on the outside. For the game he was targeted 5 times with 2 catches for 52 yards.
· Week 11 at Cin: Hall drew coverage on LE for 3 of the times he was targeted. He did not allow a completion although Michael Johnson had a PD at the LOS on one and Hall appeared to hit Evans prematurely in the end zone (Q1, 2:16). It was one of the rare times Evans would make an appeal to the officials. Joseph covered Evans just once, but broke perfectly on an out route for an INT. LE’s highlight was a 54-yard catch between the hash and right numbers (Q2, 9:41) where safety Reggie Nelson was late in support. For the game, Evans was targeted 8 times with 3 catches for 72. The Bills would ride Steve Johnson’s 3 TDs to a 49-31 win.
· Week 12 vs Pit: Ravens fans will remember this game as Steve Johnson dropping the division title. Pittsburgh did not adjust its corners by receiver with Taylor at RCB and Gay at LCB. Evans would catch just 1 of the 7 balls for which he was targeted for 9 yards. He fumbled that sole reception when hit by Harrison and it was recovered by Polamalu.
· Week 13 at Min: The Vikings played a fair amount of zone defense vs. the Bills as LE twice found a soft spot for gains of 26 and 23. He lined up left, covered by Allen and got good separation for another 23-yard reception (Q4, 13:18). Frank Walker started at corner for the Vikings and once covered LE (Incomplete) and also peeled off his receiver to register an acrobatic PD. Evans was targeted 6 times with 3 catches for 72.
· Week 14 vs. Cle: LE was targeted for the last time all season (Q1, 5:05). Fitz threw a bullet right into the chest of Sheldon Brown who dropped an easy pick. Evans would suffer a high ankle sprain later in the game and was done for the season.
I separated the times he was targeted by location on the field into 5 segments:
· Between the sideline and the left numbers (1): Targeted 19 times, 10 completions, 176 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT
· Between the left numbers and the left hash (2): Targeted 19, 10 completions, 153 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
· Between the hash marks (3): Targeted 3, 2 completions, 19 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT
· Between the right hash mark and the right numbers (4): Targeted 11, 6 catches, 122 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT
· Between the right numbers and the sideline (5): Targeted 32, 9 catches, 108 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT
So he didn’t go over the middle very often and was used most often to run routes to the right side where there was little success getting him the football. Looking back at my notes right sideline plays individually, there were a number of things that went wrong. Fitzpatrick had 5 I noted as overthrows when Evans had separation (including Q3, 0:18 in Baltimore, which might have been a 4th TD) and 1 under-throw. He had 2 drops and both of his fumbles on such routes. The times he was targeted there combine for a QB rating of 28.1, so there is no way to put a positive spin on that.
I also separated his times targeted by his set position:
· Outside receiver on the left side (OL, not differentiating when there were multiple or single receivers): Targeted 39 times, 19 complete, 291 yards, 4 TD, 0 INT
· Outside Right (OR): Targeted 31 times, 15 complete, 223 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT
· Slot Left (SL): Targeted 5 times, 1 complete, 26 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT
· Slot Right (SR): Targeted 7 times, 2 complete, 38 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT
· Middle Slot Left (MSL): 1 target, incomplete
· Middle Slot Right (MSR): 1 target, incomplete
As you can see, Evans’ effectiveness was primarily as the outside receiver on the left side. The bulk of those formations had him isolated there. I noted 5 occasions where there were other receivers left with him on the outside, but it’s certainly possible I may have missed noting 1 or 2. Bills QBs had a 108 passer rating throwing to him when he set OL. As you can see, he wasn’t particularly effective from anywhere else.
· I have heard the term “maturity” used with Evans name. In terms of his on-field demeanor, I think he’s as calm as any receiver I’ve spent time observing. By contrast, Mason who regularly gets upset with the officials has been flagged a handful of times for throwing the football away or taking his helmet off. Evans was not flagged in 2010 and there were only perhaps 3-5 occasions where he made an overt gesture to the official for a flag after the play.
· Evans was the beneficiary of just 1 pass interference call all year, a 24-yard penalty on Charles Woodson in week 2 vs. the Packers (Edwards was still at QB). I believe that is largely a function of Fitzgerald. He tried to throw a number of balls to a spot allowing Evans to make a play. This was never more evident than in the game at Baltimore. Unfortunately for Evans, that doesn’t mean he was good at it. Fitzpatrick is not particularly accurate, and seems to err on the side of throwing OOB.
· Playing with Flacco should create more pass interference calls. Think back to the Jets game in week 1 of 2010 when Flacco did not have a particularly fine night statistically, but he threw several accurate deep balls that resulted in big PI and DH calls. A confidence to drop the ball in bounds should serve Flacco well with Evans.
· He has a low catch percentage for a WR. Some of that is a function of running lower percentage routes (his stats aren’t padded by a large number of slants and WR screens). He had 3 drops, which is a good relationship to his receptions, but the main reason is probably that he drew the most difficult cover assignments for most of 2010. Some folks have suggested he saw a lot of double teams, but I think it was a more a case that the teams with 1 good corner would often have him follow Evans in the early part of 2010 before the emergence of Steve Johnson.
· The combined stats of Edwards and Fitzpatrick when throwing to Evans were 37/84, 578 yards, 4 TDs, 2 INTs, QB rating 73.4. That’s just a little bit worse than the Bills combined 75.2 passer rating and given the fact that LE was drawing more coverage attention, I would say that’s not bad.
· Because he runs lots of routes along the sidelines, Evans isn’t a high YAC player (3.3 in 2010, despite a YPC of 15.6). In addition, his YAC is concentrated in just a few catches. In a season where he had just 4 TDs, he had fewer big YAC plays (only 5 of more than 5 yards in 2010). Other receivers with high YPC and low YAC/reception (under 3.5) include Malcolm Floyd, Brandon Lloyd, Kenny Britt, and Sidney Rice.
· I”ve truncated the data by looking at only the times he was targeted rather than all plays, but opposing defenses didn’t seem to try to jam him often. The Bills also left him primarily on an island rather than use bunch formations or motion to get him a clean break off the LoS.