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Secret to Mike Evans' Consistency, Chris Godwin Reflection, Impact Newcomers | Brianna's Blitz

From the podium on Wednesday, Head Coach Todd Bowles, wide receiver Chris Godwin and second-year running back Rachaad White dish on current topics as training camp kicks off

Bri's Blitz July 26

As training camp officially kicked off at the AdventHealth Training Center, Head Coach Todd Bowles and several offensive players fielded questions at the podium following practice. Bowles, wide receiver Chris Godwin and running back Rachaad White discussed areas of improvement and the rise of recent acquisitions. Here are several key quotes from the morning address: 

Safety Bond

Antoine Winfield Jr. is back at free safety in 2023 for the Buccaneers and his secondary counterpoint is free agent pickup Ryan Neal. The Bucs bolstered the back end by signing Neal to a one-year contract back in April. In 2022, Neal started the season for Seattle in a reserve role but after Jamal Adams suffered an injury, Neal was thrust into action. He posted 45 solo tackles, eight passes defensed, four tackles for loss and an interception. Neal received 14 Associated Press All-Pro votes in 2022, second-most among NFC safeties. He became PFF's highest-graded safety (91.1) between Week 7 and 15. In coverage, Neal only allowed a 50% completion rate and a 63.9 passer rating. With physicality at the line of scrimmage, Neal will help solidify the Bucs' defense at strong safety. He took the NFL by storm last year and in 2023, Neal could become a defensive catalyst for Tampa Bay. With an all-encompassing mindset and cerebral approach, Neal has taken advantage of his newfound leadership role. 

"Ryan is huge from a communication standpoint, since he walked in the door," Todd Bowles described. "Him and [Antoine] Winfield have developed a great bond in the spring, especially from a disguise standpoint. He's a very good communicator, he wants to learn the game from everyone's eyes – from the coaches' eyes and the players' eyes and see everything. His leadership and his communication out there has been invaluable. Knock on wood, if they stay healthy, I think the communication and the chemistry is coming along pretty [well]. I think those guys have a chance to be good."

Physical Transformation 

Last year at this time, Chris Godwin was rehabbing from an ACL tear and felt the pressure of a looming timeline: the start of the regular season. In 2023, Godwin takes the field with a clean bill of health. With zero limitations hanging over his head or question marks regarding the stability of his knee, Godwin can focus solely on playing the game. 

In 2022, Godwin became just the second player in team history to hit the 100-catch mark in a season and finished third in the NFL with 7.0 receptions per game. Godwin became an inspirational figure and embodiment of strength last season, working his way back from a significant knee injury suffered in December 2021 to suiting up in Week One. Though a hamstring injury then caused him to miss several games, he came back in Week Four and gradually regained peak form in 2022. Overall, Godwin caught 104 passes (eighth in the NFL) for 1,023 yards and three touchdowns. He gained 52.6% of his total yards after the snap as he consistently turned quick passes into chain-movers. Godwin's 26 receptions off screen passes in 2022 were the most by any receiver in the NFL and his 165 yards on those plays ranked fourth. When defensive backs did not challenge at the line of scrimmage, Godwin took advantage in the short-to-intermediate area of the field. The stellar slot receiver will be used interchangeably in 2023, lining up on the outside more frequently. Entering a fresh slate, Godwin reflected on the previous year and jovially looks to the future. 

"I would say overall my body is feeling so much better," Godwin said. "It is the difference between feeling like you are in survival mode and being in a position to perform at a high level, recover, and bounce back to do it again. I am grateful for the experience I got last year. It tests your perseverance, character, and stuff like that. I grew a lot from it. I was fortunate enough to be able to make it back in time to be able to play last season and still put up some decent performances. I am excited about this year, to be healthy, and to be back with the guys."

Consistency and Longevity 

Mike Evans has become a household name in the NFL, achieving both consistency and longevity. He sets the standard not only in the Bucs' receiving corps, but across the NFL landscape. Evans is the only player in NFL history to begin a career with nine-consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. With a carousal of men under center over the last decade in Tampa Bay, Evans has remained a constant. The jump-ball specialist and back-shoulder catch aficionado has built a Hall of Fame-worthy resumé with the Buccaneers, garnering words of admiration from his teammate, Chris Godwin. 

"There are not enough nice words to say about how impressive Mike is," Godwin stated. "He has done something that nobody in NFL history has done and that is a testament to who he is as a person and who he is as a player. He comes in and does his job. He is not some diva who is demanding the ball. Regardless of who the quarterback is, what the situation is, or how many games he plays, he is going to go out there and perform. You know what you are going to get from Mike. Stuff like that happens where he is a position to capture a record or tie a record. It makes sense because he is that guy. I could not be more happy to keep playing by his side. He has taught me a lot. To have him and I as one and two for as many years as we have, you do not see it too often. I am fortunate."

Rookie Rise 

In non-padded work, rookie Calijah Kancey has already turned heads. The Buccaneers selected Kancey with the 19th overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft out of Pittsburgh. At the collegiate ranks, Kancey consistently imposed his will, becoming the program's first unanimous All-American since Aaron Donald. He also received ACC Defensive Player of the Year honors for his contributions in the trenches. Kancey had the most pressures for an interior defensive lineman, with 13 more than second place out of Power 5 schools. Additionally, Kancey led all FBS defensive tackles in tackles for loss (14.5), with 46.8 percent of his tackles coming in enemy territory. With a relentless motor, explosiveness off the snap, violent hands and an advanced pass rush arsenal, Kancey has made a mark donning a Bucs jersey, drawing praise from running back Rachaad White. 

"He is a different rookie, man. He is so composed. He is a good dude, a great guy. You can see his poise, just a guy who wants to work. He does not really say too many words every time I see him, and you can tell he is kind of to himself. Out on the field, you can see that he is explosive, quick and he got in the backfield today. It just makes you understand that you have to look out for a guy like that."

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