The Nitty Gritty
Wide receiver Chris Godwin entered the 2019 season with some lofty expectations, none higher than those of his head coach in Bruce Arians. During OTAs and training camp, Arians went so far as to compare Godwin to league veteran Larry Fitzgerald, whom Arians coached in Arizona. He also went on to predict a 100-catch season for Godwin and later, 1,500 yards for both CG12 and teammate Mike Evans – and he took some heat for those fire takes.
Well. Ye of little faith.
Godwin finished the 2019 season with 86 receptions for 1,333 yards and a team-leading nine touchdowns. Oh, and he wasn't given the chance to even complete the season thanks to a hamstring injury suffered against Detroit in Week 15. Yet, he still finished with the fourth-most yards of any receiver in the NFL and recorded the fourth-highest single season total in Buccaneers history. Had he finished out his final two games, he was on pace for 99 catches and 1,523 yards – right on par with Arians' predictions.
Godwin's 2019 efforts were enough to earn him his first career Pro Bowl nod as well as second-team All-Pro honors, cementing 2019 as #12SZN.
There are countless highlights from #12SZN to choose from, given that Godwin was as consistent as consistent can be all year. His first substantial game came in Week Two in primetime on the road in Carolina against a division foe. That's when Godwin eased the minds of fantasy owners everywhere, grabbing eight of nine passes thrown his way for 121 yards and a touchdown on plays like the below.
Look. At. That. Route. Godwin motions inside the numbers prior to the snap and notice the Carolina corner alert the underneath linebacker. The Panthers are in zone and with the strong safety preoccupied by tight end O.J. Howard, Godwin stutter steps to shake his man and cuts back inside, exploiting the open space. There's no one over top and quarterback Jameis Winston fires a dart as Godwin gets into the end zone easily. The adjustment by Godwin to recognize the zone weakness is downright impressive, especially for the second game of the season.
This next one is from the same game but it's the first inkling we really got this season in knowing that Godwin wasn't only consistent – but he was clutch, too. This catch came on third down with the Bucs clinging to a three-point lead and needing more points to put the game away. Third-and-eight isn't the ideal look but Tampa Bay needed to extend the drive. Enter CG12.
Looks like the Carolina defender is more concerned with finding out where Winston is going with the ball than sticking on his man. That's a mistake with Godwin, who blows right past him and is waiting for the ball to arrive with a few yards of cushion as a result. Godwin does a good job getting his head around and leaping up to make the grab. He gets both feet in bounds before stepping out of the sideline before his man even comes close. Clutch play for the third-year receiver.
Godwin got his most work of the season in Week Four while the Bucs took a visit to Los Angeles to take on the Rams. Granted, in a record-setting day for the Bucs' offense – a lot of players got a lot of work. Godwin got in the mix with his first touchdown of the day coming in the second quarter. The Bucs were at the LA three-yard-line, thanks in part to a 30-yard catch already made by Godwin, but were running out of chances to score, facing third-and-three. Tampa Bay trots out in an empty set with Godwin lined up as the third receiver in a trips formation to Winston's right.
Godwin does an excellent job putting his head down and faking a dig route – enough to get the defender to bite. By the time he recovers, Godwin has cut outside instead, left wide open to nab the three-yard touchdown pass as a result. That's not at all by accident. Godwin is an elite (yes, I said it) route runner, who only got better as the season progressed.
The true culmination of how much Godwin improved probably came in Week 12, in the Bucs' first face-off with the division-rival Atlanta Falcons at their place. That was one of the more fun games this season and the offensive fireworks that came with the 35-22 victory were helped in large part by number 12. The second quarter saw a particular series where Godwin lit fuse after fuse that led to an eventual one-yard touchdown catch on third down.
It started with the above 22-yard catch on first-and-10. Notice Godwin on the outside shoulder of Evans in a stacked set. Atlanta is in a zone coverage and God help any defender tasked with deciding between Evans and Godwin as to who to take. Rookie Kendall Sheffield gets predictably overwhelmed trying to tail both – eventually harassing Godwin a bit more. Godwin is able to shake him off though and with the front-side safety staying over top of Evans, Godwin is clear to the sideline to make the grab from Winston. It speaks tremendously to Godwin's toughness. Not only can he out-maneuver, he can out-muscle, too.
Later in the same drive, the Bucs found themselves backed up on second and 21. Insert Shannon Sharpe 'That ain't no problem' .gif for number 12. In further proof that Godwin can absolutely pick apart zones, Atlanta is initially showing man coverage before the defensive back on Godwin in the slot slides into the underneath zone, leaving Godwin to the deep safety instead. Winston finds Godwin in the sweet spot as 12 turns around at the perfect time to grab the ball and 30-yard gain, putting Tampa Bay into the red zone.
This was it. The chance for the Bucs, down 10-7 halfway through the second quarter, to overtake the Falcons for the lead. They had made it to the goal line, just one yard out on third down. Who else would you even logically go to in this situation, right?
Sure enough, the Bucs end up going to Godwin to punch it in. Initially, the Bucs show a 2x2 formation with both Evans and Godwin to Winston's left before Godwin goes in motion across the formation, pre-snap. Just as he arrives to the opposite side of the line, the ball is snapped and Godwin takes off on a corner route. The defender just kind of whiffs on him and both O.J. Howard and Breshad Perriman do a good job occupying their defenders to help spring Godwin free. It's still a tough angle for Winston to throw, though. He manages to get it in front of the aforementioned defender yet behind Sheffield, whose come streaking across the end zone, recognizing Godwin is on his own. As a result, the pass is a little behind Godwin too, but he just casually reaches out and makes a twisting, one-handed grab for the score. The Bucs didn't really look back after that and neither did CG12, who ended the day with his most single-game yards of the season, nabbing 151 yards and two touchdowns by HALFTIME, 184 yards on seven catches by the time the afternoon was over.
As a bonus, even though Godwin's stat column only said two touchdowns, you could argue he was responsible for all three first-half Bucs' touchdowns, as he helped set up the infamous Vita Vea touchdown with a 26-yard grab on third down that continued the drive.