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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Mike Evans, Chris Godwin Making Their Presence Felt

The Bucs' Pro Bowl receiving duo of Mike Evans and Chris Godwin put on a show during the Bucs' Sunday morning training camp practice, making eye-opening catches on passes from all three quarterbacks


The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a lot of roster decisions to sort out in their wide receiver room, but the top of the depth chart is set and continues to rank as one of the best pass-catching duos in the league.

Mike Evans is coming off his ninth straight 1,000-yard receiving season, the most in NFL history to start a player's career, and Chris Godwin posted just the second season of more than 100 receptions in Buccaneer annals. Evans shows no signs of slowing down and Godwin is showing every sign of being back to his pre-knee injury form. On Sunday morning at the Bucs' fourth practice of training camp, the two just put on a show, period.

Evans scored at least two touchdowns during a pair of red zone periods and opened the first full-team drill with a nifty catch-and-run up the seam, among other practice exploits. His first red zone touchdown was vintage Evans – a fade to the left sideline in the end zone and a leaping high-point grab over an out-matched defender.

"He obviously makes your job extremely easy," said quarterback Baker Mayfield earlier in camp. "He is a big target [and] even when he is one-on-one, he is still open. There were things [in an earlier practice] at I got to see, him going full speed up against the defense, just little nuances that are what make him extremely special. He is an All-Pro for a reason. He does things that you really cannot teach as a receiver. He just has an innate ability of getting open and being really friendly at the top of his routes."

Mayfield is in a head-to-head competition with third-year man Kyle Trask for the Bucs' starting quarterback job, and on Sunday it was Trask's turn to lead the first-team defense. That hardly mattered when it came to exploiting the talents of Evans and Godwin, who mixed in with quite a few different groups of receivers. It was actually third-string passer who delivered the aforemtnioned high fade pass to Evans. It was Mayfield and Godwin who hooked up for the play of the day Sunday morning, on a long arching touchdown pass down the left sideline that the receiver hauled in while leaping over rookie cornerback Keenan Isaac. Earlier, Trask delivered another sharp scoring pass to Godwin during a red zone drill.

Trask has continued to work on his chemistry with the Bucs' top receivers after spending most of his first two seasons throwing to backups in his role as the third quarterback. As entrenched as Evans and Godwin are in the Bucs' offense, it's Trask who has had to adjust to their games, and the results early in camp suggest that process is going well.

"It's awesome," said Trask of getting to work with Evans and Godwin. "Obviously, I wasn't getting many reps with them the first two years. I'll be honest, I was a little rusty throwing to them…in the spring when we first got started, because I had no idea what the timing was with them. But now that we're getting that down, they're really fun to throw to. They've been in the league this long for a reason. They're really receptive and great even off the field, on the sideline [with] what they see and relay and [they are] great communicators. You can definitely tell why they're true NFL veterans."

Godwin's deep ball was noteworthy in that it hints at an evolving role for the seventh-year receiver. Over the last three seasons he has taken a large percentage of his snaps out of the slot, serving as the quick-hit master in the Tom Brady-led passing attack. Godwin was extremelyproductive in that role, but it also exposed him to a lot of hits. The Bucs will surely still take advantage of his talents in the slot and as an in-line blocker, but they are expected to use him more on the outside of formations this year. In 2019, Godwin made the Pro Bowl after racking up 1,333 yards in 14 games and averaging 15.5 yards per reception. Over the last three seasons he has seen that average drop to 12.9, then 11.3 and then a career-low 9.8 in 2022. Some of that was the function of his continued recovery from a serious knee injury suffered late in 2021, but he is fully healthy now and poised to be an even more diverse weapon in 2023.

View pictures from Tampa Bay Buccaneers Training Camp practice on 7/30/23.

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