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Dallas Cowboys v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

Bucs X-Factor: Chris Godwin seeks another standout performance

The Bucs wideout has been steady but hasn’t taken over a game since Week 1. Could that change against Chicago?

While he’s not dominating the highlight reel or commanding extra attention on a weekly basis, Chris Godwin has served as the one constant in a loaded but oscillating receiver corps for the Buccaneers.

He recorded at least 50 yards receiving in each of the first five games before coming just shy with 43 against the Philadelphia Eagles last week. He also currently leads the team in receptions with 34, a top 10 mark in the league.

While Mike Evans and Antonio Brown have put up multiple dominant showings, they’ve both disappeared in a couple games this season, and Rob Gronkowski has been missing since Week 4 due to a rib injury. The high floor Godwin brings week to week is always appreciated, but we all know how capable he is of terrorizing secondaries when given the opportunity.

He beat up the Cowboys for 9 receptions, 105 yards and a score when Mike Evans struggled to generate much noise against Trevon Diggs, but even then he took a backseat to Brown’s 5/121/2 line. When he posted a strong 6/74/1 day against the Rams, Evans broke through for 8 catches and 106 yards.

“Always the bridesmaid, never the bride” has been the theme of Godwin’s 2021 season thus far.

That could very well change this week against the Chicago Bears. Brown has missed two days of practice this week due to an ankle injury, and missing Friday’s session would certainly cast doubt on his status. Meanwhile, Evans will likely draw Jaylon Johnson, a physical corner who’s proven to be sticky this year. Given Evans’s mixed history against those types of players, he might not be in line for a banner day.

All that said, Godwin could potentially see receiver No. 1 targets from Tom Brady, and it’ll be up to him to maximize those opportunities. Going against Kindle Vildor, who ranks highly in the name department but grades out quite poorly by most metrics (53.1 grade from Pro Football Focus), Godwin can thrust himself back into those highlight reels.

The Bears are doing a fairly good job at limiting explosive plays, allowing only 18 plays of 20+ yards and 4 plays of 40+ yards. A reinvigorated pass rush and a focus on keeping everything in front of them has helped, but that plays into what Godwin does best in this offense.

Easily the best run-after-catch receiver the Bucs have, Godwin often takes short passes within 10 yards of the line scrimmage and looks to generate some YAC. He has 204 yards after catch, easily outpacing Brown (162) and Evans (84). Additionally, he’s forced 7 missed tackles and has averaged 6 YAC per reception according to Pro-Football-Reference.com, one of the best marks in the league compared to receivers with similar snap counts — prominent players like Cooper Kupp (5.8) and D.J. Moore (5.1) fall shy.

Godwin’s average depth of target (ADOT) this season is a career-low 8.7. By comparison, Brown’s ADOT is 13.3 and Evans’s is 14.5, so that affirms his role as Brady’s primary short target when the running back isn’t involved.

For the cherry, Godwin has a top 5 catch rate (73.9%) among the top 25 players in targets, a measure which also includes running backs and tight ends. Twelve of those targets are in the red zone, which is tied for the league lead.

Ultimately, it’d be shocking if 1Fo goes without a significant role in the game plan come 4:25 Sunday. He’s as reliable as ever, and Tampa will absolutely need him to keep this offense productive against one of the stingier defensive units they’ve faced so far.

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