Each season is different, whether you’re a four-year veteran in the same system or you underwent a coaching overhaul with a brand-new staff in the offseason. The Bucs’ case is the latter going into 2019 and the start of voluntary workouts last week marked the first introduction players received into the scheme they’ll be playing in come August.
The thing about last season is that there were some things that worked extremely well despite the disappointing outcome. The Bucs saw their best passing offense in franchise history and it’s one that led the league in passing yards for 2018. A large part of that was due to the arsenal of receivers at the offense’s disposal. Not only did the Bucs have options in wide receiver Mike Evans, a guy who’s just the third player in the history of the NFL to amass 1,000 receiving yards in his first five seasons, but there was the reliable underneath option in slot receiver Adam Humphries as well as deep threat DeSean Jackson. Plus, in an offense that regularly utilized two tight end sets, the Bucs had two of the best pass-catching tight ends in the league in Cam Brate and O.J. Howard.
And lest we forget about the team’s FOURTH wideout in Chris Godwin. In his second year, Godwin made the jump from 525 yards receiving with one touchdown in his rookie year to 842 yards receiving with seven touchdowns in 2018. Again, this is as the team’s fourth receiver. With departures of two of the aforementioned receivers, how the offense will adjust under new Head Coach Bruce Arians is still something his players are figuring out.
“I think that remains to be seen,” Godwin said about how much success the Bucs can have in Arians’ system. “I think obviously we have a ton of talented guys and it’s just a matter of how hard we work and how well we’re executing that will determine how successful we are. There’s no doubt in my mind that we can be one of the top offenses in the league. Like I said, execution. We have to go to work, we have to put in the time and we have to be on the same page.”
So what exactly does that mean for players on an individual level? What’s different when your position group in particular gets drastically shaken up despite being one of the best in the league last season? According to Godwin, not much in the end.
“I think as a receiving corps we all have to prepare ourselves for what this offense brings,” Godwin acknowledged. “I think it’s no secret that coach Arians likes to take shots and likes to use his receivers and that excites us, but I don’t think it makes me have to prepare any different than everybody else would. I’m just trying to come in, day- in and day-out, and do what I can to be ready.”
Another thing that isn’t a secret is the increased role Godwin is likely to play come Week One. Coach Arians said at league meetings last month that he sees Godwin in the slot and used in different alignments this year, thereby increasing his workload from his previous two seasons. The departure of Humphries in free agency and Jackson in the trade to the Eagles surely made extra work more likely for Godwin, but judging from his jump in production from year one to year two, he’s been quietly improving all along.
View photos from Phase One of Offseason Training.
Arians went so far as to say Godwin could be a 100-catch receiver in 2019 because of his projected versatile role. Godwin himself said he looks forward to the work. When asked if he takes pride in his particular skill in catching contested passes, he said in reality, he takes pride in all his catches. He doesn’t want to make the tough ones and miss the easy ones. Each catch is important to him and he’s likely going to be placed in situations to make all of them this coming year. The confidence his new coach has isn’t lost on him, but he’s a realist. He knows the confidence – and the hype that comes along with it – mean nothing at the end of the day if he and the rest of his teammates don’t execute the new plan in place for them. Coaching, he says, only goes so far.
“It’s cool seeing those types of things,” Godwin said of his new coach’s remarks regarding the confidence he has in Godwin. “But at the same time everything – preseason, it doesn’t really matter until you put the film on. I’m not really big on preseason talk and all that stuff, because if we don’t go out there and execute, none of it will matter.”
He’s got a plan to help that execution and it’s all about consistency. That singular trait is what Godwin credits as separating the good players from the great. It’s something he strives for not only on the field but in his offseason training and just because there’s a new system and new staff with some different components to the roster doesn’t mean Godwin abandons what’s worked for him.
“I don’t really think anything changes for me,” Godwin said. “I’ve always been a guy that each and every year, each and every down, I’m trying to get better. I’m trying to look for something to grow [towards], and if I took a different approach to that this year because Adam and D-Jack are gone I think I would be doing myself a disservice. I think I’m going to stay within a realm of myself and just keep trying to improve on the things that I know I need to improve on. Stay true to myself.”