NFL Football

Evans happy for success of draft classmate Beckham

(AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File)

By FRED GOODALL

AP Sports Writer

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) Mike Evans wants no part of a debate about whether he or Odell Beckham, Jr., is the best young receiver in the NFL.

Both are in the discussion, and that's good enough for Tampa Bay's emerging star, who faces Beckham's New York Giants on Sunday.

The fourth-year pros are among the most productive players since entering the league as part of a stellar group of rookie receivers selected in the 2014 draft with 553 catches for 7,975 yards and 65 touchdowns between them.

"I think we are both great players," the 6-foot-5, 231-pound Evans said. "I'm a bit bigger. He's a bit faster.

"He's better after the catch. I'm a bigger guy - better at jump balls, probably," Evans added. "He plays with a lot of passion as well as I (do). I think we play with a lot of swag in different areas. He's more of a dancer, I'm more of a tough guy."

Since his debut in Week 5 of his rookie season, the speedy Beckham's 37 receiving touchdowns are the most in the NFL.

He got his 300th reception during last week's 27-24 loss to Philadelphia, reached in fewer games (45) than any player in league history.

Beckham and Evans rank fourth and fifth in the NFL in receiving yards since the start of last season with 1,482 and 1,481, respectively.

And the duo has been among the best at getting in the end zone, with Evans tied for second with 13 TD receptions and Beckham fifth at 12.

Still, Evans insists there's no personal rivalry, nor any added motivation to try to outshine Beckham on Sunday.

The Buccaneers (1-1) are coming off their first loss of the season, while the Giants (0-3) are trying to avoid beginning with a four-game skid.

"I'm excited for this matchup because we lost last week and we get an opportunity to bounce back," Evans said.

"Odell is a great player. He is a friend of mine. ... I'm happy that I am a part of such an amazing draft class," Evans added. "I hope we can continue the success we've been having."

Some other things to know about the Bucs and Giants:

HERALDED CLASS: Evans was the seventh overall pick in the 2014 draft. Beckham was 12th. The rest of the class included receivers Jarvis Landry, Brandin Cooks, Kelvin Benjamin, Sammy Watkins, Allen Robinson, Jordan Matthews, Allen Hurns and John Brown, who've all had a major impact with their teams.

GOT THEIR NUMBER?: Eli Manning is 5-0 against the Bucs, including a 24-14 playoff victory in Tampa that began the 2007 Giants' Super Bowl run. He's thrown for seven TDs and has an 87.7 passer rating in his past three games against Tampa Bay. Rebounding from a 0-3 start to make the playoffs will be a challenge, however Manning said that's not New York's focus right now. "Our mindset is we have to get this win right here. Get our first win and go from there. ... We have a long football season left and anything is possible, but still the focus is on the next game no matter if we're 3-0 or 1-2 or whatever," he said.

FAMOUS JAMEIS: Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston is coming off throwing three interceptions in Tampa Bay's loss to Minnesota. He said protecting the football will be the key to getting back on track against New York. In his past seven home games - five of them wins. The first overall pick from the 2015 draft has thrown for 11 TDs vs. three interceptions.

THE OTHER ELI: Opponents have been picking on Giants' second-year cornerback Eli Apple. He was beaten for a short touchdown by Cowboys tight end Jason Witten in the opener and gave up a 27-yard TD pass to Marvin Jones of the Lions the following game. Last week, he was called for pass interference penalties of 41 and 36 yards against the Eagles, both leading to touchdowns. He also collided with teammate Janoris Jenkins on a 19-yard pass to Alshon Jeffrey that set up a game-winning 61-yard field goal by Jake Elliott. Apple remains confident. "As the season goes on, you want to improve in all areas. You want to tackle better, you want to make better calls, you want to communicate more and of course you want to make more plays," he said.

NO RUN HERE, THERE AND EVERYWHERE: The Giants have struggled on offense and are one-dimensional at times. Playing behind a porous offensive line, the running game has 148 yards in three games, an average of 48.7 yards. Backup Orleans Darkwa leads the team with 53 yards on 13 carries. His long is 20 yards, so he has 33 yards on the other 12. Starter Paul Perkins is averaging 2.1 yards on 23 carries. The attack has struggled so much, the Giants had a fourth-and-inches from inside the Eagles 1 on Sunday and Darkwa was tackled for a 1-yard loss.

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Updated September 28, 2017

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