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In Chris Godwin the Bucs trust, but is he a 100-catch receiver?

Coach Bruce Arians said Godwin may never come off the field this season.
Bucs wide receiver Chris Godwin speaks with reporters during a media availability Tuesday. (CHRIS URSO | Times)
Bucs wide receiver Chris Godwin speaks with reporters during a media availability Tuesday. (CHRIS URSO | Times)
Published Apr. 10, 2019

TAMPA — Time will tell whether this prediction is fact or fantasy, but Chris Godwin is going to be a very busy receiver for the Bucs this season.

“I think Chris Godwin is going to be close to a 100-catch guy,” coach Bruce Arians said. “Especially because I think he can play in the slot. He’s never coming off the field.”

Godwin’s role was expected to increase after the Bucs traded DeSean Jackson to the Eagles and Adam Humphries signed a four-year, $36 million deal as a free agent with the Titans. That’s a loss of 117 receptions and those 169 targets have to go somewhere else.

But 100 catches? That’s only been once before in franchise history when Keyshawn Johnson caught 106 in 2001.

Godwin, the third year pro from Penn State, was third on the club with 59 catches for 842 yards and seven touchdowns last season, behind only Mike Evans (86 for 1,524 yards) and Humphries (76 for 816).

But Arians has some history with this. With the Cardinals, he moved Larry Fitzgerald to the slot and he responded with 109, 107 and 109 receptions from 2015-17.

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Of course, Fitzgerald was already 11 seasons into what will become a Hall of Fame career by then while Godwin still is ironing out his game.

“I’m not saying he’s Larry Fitzgerald by any means yet,” Arians said, “but (he can) play the role like Larry did in Arizona.”

In fact, 100-catch receivers are commonplace in Arians’ offense. He’s had one in four of his past six seasons as a head coach.

Godwin read the comment by Arians, which was made at the league meetings last month. But he wasn’t overwhelmed by it.

“I mean honestly, it’s cool seeing those types of things," Godwin said. “But at the same time, I’m not big on preseason talk. If we don’t go out and execute, none of it will matter.

“I think as a receiving corps, we all have to prepare ourselves for what this offense brings. You know, I think it’s no secret coach Arians likes to take shots and likes to use his receivers. That excites us. But I don’t think it makes me have to prepare any different than anyone else would. I’ll just try to come in and do what I can day and day out to get ready."

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Godwin has always appeared mature beyond his years. As a rookie, he was the Bucs No. 4 receiver, starting only two games. He aught 34 passes for 525 yards and one touchdown. It was a memorable one as it sealed a come-from-behind win over New Orleans in the final regular-season game of 2017.

Last season, Godwin battled through some injuries but did not miss any games. He struggled a bit with his confidence.

He had only one catch in 10 targets against the Saints. On the one reception he made in that game, he lost fumble. It didn’t get any better the next week at Baltimore when Godwin had no catches on three targets, including a drop.

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Fortunately, he battled through those setbacks to finish strong with nine receptions for 114 yards and two touchdowns in a loss to Atlanta in the season finale.

What Godwin said he needs to improve is his route-running.

“It taught me the value of consistency," Godwin said. “As a professional, as a guy who wants to be one of the elite in this league, that’s the difference between the good guys and the great guys. I had a three- or four-game stretch where I didn’t think I performed up to my standards. I really took that and internalized it. I’m looking forward to learning from those experiences to make sure they don’t happen again."