At the end of the 2017-18 season, then-rookie Chris Godwin only had one career touchdown to his name.
That touchdown, a thrilling last-second game-clincher vs. the Saints in the season finale, is a highlight to Godwin, but not something that he’s focused on moving forward.
“I think it’s being conscious of the past but not harping on it,” said the second-year player during media availability last week. “That was a great play in my career thus far but that’s not the only play I’m trying to make. I look back on it as an accomplishment but I’m trying to take it day-by-day and keep improving so that I can make more catches like those.”
Chris Godwin everybody!!! Bucs go UP on the Saints 31-24! pic.twitter.com/x1fM4Tr7a5— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) January 1, 2018
Godwin had 34 catches on 56 targets last season, not seeing more than three balls thrown his way until a Week 10 victory vs. the Jets where both Mike Evans and Jameis Winston were out. After only 83 yards in his first eight games, the Penn State product registered 442 yards in the second half of the season, culminating in that 111-yard, seven reception, single touchdown game vs. New Orleans.
The progress shown by Godwin in the last eight games of the season have the Bucs excited, with offensive coordinator saying at the beginning of May that he “sees him as a starter.”
“Thats how I see it. He’s earned the right to be a starter,” said Monken. “Now, whether it works out that way or not, I don’t know. But he’s earned the right, finished the year that way. Whatever we’ve asked him to do, he’s done it well and he’s only going to continue to get better. Why? Because he’s big, he’s fast, he’s physical, he’s smart and he’s going to continue to develop. And it’s important to him. He takes care of his body, does it exactly the way you want.”
At Penn State, Godwin had a similar learning curve start, seeing moderate success as a freshman, breaking out as a sophomore with five 100-plus receiving games, and finally, recording 11 touchdowns over the course of an impressive junior season.
“Like I’ve said before, he’s going to be a number-one in this league, and soon,” said fellow receiver Evans. “He has all the tools. He’s a smooth route-runner, [he’s] strong, he can do it all. He’ll block. I mean, he’s just the complete package, a really good player and he’s going to continue to get better.”
An area Godwin pinpointed for improvement is his play speed, a terrifying prospect for a player who ran a 4.42 at the NFL Combine. A big cliche in the NFL is that as your years in it continue, the game slows down, and that’s what Godwin hopes to achieve. By becoming more comfortable and secure in the execution of his routes, he said, he can use his separation to create more opportunities.
For an offense that last year had no issue putting up yards but struggled converting them to points, Godwin’s emergence is key. Mike Evans is a top-five receiver in the league, and DeSean Jackson is still one of the fastest, but the two of them can’t do it alone, especially should the run game suffer again.
While expecting Godwin to replicate his 2016 11 touchdown season might be too much it’s not a stretch to imagine his targets increasing to at least 80 in 2018, a prediction that will become increasingly likely to come true if Godwin usurps Adam Humphries as the Buccaneers’ No. 3.
For Godwin, though, the focus is on getting prepared for the upcoming season and making sure all the praise being thrown his way isn’t for nothing.
“I’m just trying to get better one day at a time and I feel like that mindset has gotten me to where I’m at now and I’m not going to change it. I take it one day at a time and whatever happens this season is what happens. But I’m going to go out there and give it my all and I always have.”