SR’s Fab 5 is a collection of inside scoop, analysis and insight from yours truly, PewterReport.com publisher and Bucs beat writer Scott Reynolds. Here are a few things that caught my attention this week at One Buc Place and around the NFL.
FAB 1. It’s Godwin Time
He didn’t look like a wide receiver that was going to vie for playing time anytime soon during Tampa Bay’s rookie mini-camp. In fact, former Penn State wide receiver Chris Godwin, the team’s third-round pick, looked like, well, a third day pick at times back in May.
A dropped pass here, a dropped pass there. Godwin looked rather ordinary – for about three days.
Then came the OTAs in mid-May and early June, followed by the mandatory mini-camp in mid-June. Godwin quickly went from ordinary to extraordinary. He found his hands and his confidence by quickly digesting Dirk Koetter’s playbook.
By the time training camp rolled around Godwin went from looking like a rookie to a polished veteran, running crisp routes, getting open and making some spectacular plays on a regular basis – like an every practice basis.
Bucs WR Chris Godwin- Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
“Chris is a smart guy,” Bucs quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said. “That’s what jumps out right away. He’s not thinking too much. He’s picked up everything kind of quick. There are a lot of nuances to learn along the way, but in terms of alignments and assignments he’s doing a great job. The thing that stands out about him is that when the ball is in the air he’s going to get it. He’s made some really acrobatic plays throughout training camp and the OTAs. It will be exciting to see him in the preseason and the regular season.”
Godwin, who had 154 catches for 2,421 yards and 18 touchdowns at Penn State, has absorbed Koetter’s scheme and intricate plays seemingly with ease, which stuns the team’s veterans, including Pro Bowl wide receiver Mike Evans.
“His knowledge of the game is amazing,” Evans said. “As a rookie, he knows the plays better some of the guys that have been here a while. He’s right there with me in terms of knowing this offense. It’s my third year in it and he knew it right away. That’s what is impressive. He rarely messes up.”
Godwin has been working with Fitzpatrick and fellow backup quarterback Ryan Griffin with the second-team, but he has also seen a great deal of work with the starters, too.
“Chris Godwin, since he stepped in for the first OTAs, I thought, ‘This kid is going to be good,’” Bucs reserve cornerback Jude Adjei-Barimah said. “And now it’s, ‘This kid is good!’ He just keeps improving and improving everyday. He’s coming out and making big plays, too. That’s going to be huge for us. We need as many playmakers as we can get. That’s what he is.”
Godwin has seen the majority of playing time outside, rotating with Evans and wide receiver DeSean Jackson. Adam Humphries has primarily been the slot receiver, although he, Jackson and Godwin will split reps depending on the formations and personnel grouping, while Evans will rarely leave the field. Yet there have been some reps where Humphries has lined up outside and Godwin has worked the middle of the field.
“We all rotate pretty much,” Godwin said. “The coaches want a group of guys that are well versed at every position. They want us to know the whole offense and that challenges us all. So far, it’s been mostly on the outside for me.
Bucs WR Chris Godwin – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR
“I didn’t play much slot before coming in here, but I’m trying to contribute any way I can to the best of my ability. A big part of the game is understanding the big picture of a given play – where you are supposed to be in man versus zone and how the offense works. I’m starting to understand that more. I’m still making mistakes, but those mistakes are allowing me to learn.”
Godwin’s mistakes are few and far between, especially compared to the voluminous number of plays he’s made on the practice fields at One Buccaneer Place this summer.
“It’s impressive for a guy so young to come out here and pick up on the playbook so fast and look so smooth,” Bucs wide receiver Adam Humphries said. “A lot of times young guys come out and try to make a statement and impress people, but they get a little too fast in their routes and a maybe little too out of control. But he’s just smooth and gets the job done.”
To say that the Bucs might have gotten a steal in Godwin in the third round is an understatement. Godwin was the 11th receiver drafted this year behind San Diego’s Mike Williams, Tennessee’s Corey Davis, Cincinnati’s John Ross, Pittsburgh’s JuJu Smith-Schuster, Carolina’s Curtis Samuel, Jacksonville’s Dede Westbrook, the New York Jets’ ArDarius Stewart, Buffalo’s Zay Jones, the Los Angeles Rams’ Cooper Kupp and Tennessee’s Taywan Taylor.
The Bucs believe Godwin is just as talented as any first-rounder in this year’s draft.
“He’s a really good talent,” Evans said. “He’s 6-foot-2, 215 pounds – a big body guy. He’s going to help us a lot.”
Jackson echoed Evans’ sentiment of the rookie phenom.
“He’s a young, physical receiver doing everything that he’s been asked to do,” Jackson said. “He’s trying to learn from the older guys and he’s done a great job so far. He has a lot of upside and playmaking ability. He’s definitely not playing like a rookie and he’s making plays.”
Even the players charged with the responsibility for guarding Godwin have quickly learned to respect him.
“He’s good,” said second-year Tampa Bay cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III. “He gets my approval. He’s good. Right now he’s better than I was at this point last year. I’m excited for him.”
Understand that Godwin is not another Kenny Bell – an overhyped fifth-round wide receiver who looked blazing fast and competent in the offseason last year, but wilted and succumbed to dropped passes once the pads came on for training camp and the preseason. Godwin is about 20 pounds heavier than Bell and is quite physical for a rookie receiver, specializing in going up and getting jump balls.
Bucs WR Chris Godwin – Photo by: Mary Holt/PR
“He has strong hands and some range,” Bucs veteran cornerback Robert McClain said. “If the ball is in his area, he’s going to catch it. He’s going to be a good pro. I’m impressed with his hands and his body control. He just needs to get used to the speed and tempo of the game and learning how to read coverages. I feel like he’s going to be a real good pro.”
Godwin’s journey as a professional football player takes a big step on Friday night in Cincinnati when he makes his NFL debut in Tampa Bay’s first preseason game in 2017. Godwin’s teammates believe it could be the start of the Chris Godwin Show this August.
“There are always one or two guys that stick out in the preseason and he could be one of those guys,” Fitzpatrick said. “He’s been turning some heads out here with some of the catches he’s made. The great thing about him is he’s working hard. He’ll make a great catch and just jog back to the huddle. Maybe break a smile, maybe not. Then he’ll do his assignment on the next play. That’s a great quality to have.”
Godwin has showed some improvisational ability on the practice field, too, which will come in handy during the regular season when he takes the field with Jameis Winston. On a play with the second team in 7-on-7 red zone drills, Godwin ran a slant pattern into the end zone but became double covered with the safety underneath and the safety over the top.
The rookie then read the coverage, slammed the brakes on, turned around and bolted for the back corner of the end zone. The cornerback lost track of Godwin, who hauled in a touchdown on a broken play.
“In general, here in Tampa Bay that’s a big focus on offense,” Fitzpatrick said. “The scramble drill is big here and getting open when plays break down and Jameis breaks the pocket. He is already doing a great job with that.”
Seeing reps with the starters and second team in training camp, it’s safe to say that Godwin will see plenty of action in the preseason.
Bucs WR Chris Godwin – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR
“He’s going to play all preseason for us, he’s going to play all season for us,” Hargreaves said. “He’s going to make big plays for us. He’s being quiet and going to work. He’s not bothering anybody. He’s doing what he has to do and making plays when they come his way.”
After 11 days of training camp and an entire offseason of having to elude the likes of Brent Grimes, Hargreaves, Adjei-Barimah, McClain, Javien Elliott and Ryan Smith, Godwin is ready to be tested by a team other than the red and pewter-clad Buccaneers.
“I’m coming out here and just competing every day, but as camp goes on everybody gets hyped up to go against somebody else,” Godwin said. “I’m looking forward to it. My main thing is that I’m looking for an opportunity to help my team.”
Humphries used an impressive preseason in 2014 to make the Bucs as an undrafted free agent. For Godwin, how he performs in the preseason will determine how much he’ll play during his rookie season. His roster spot is already secure.
“It very much could be his show,” Humphries said. “By virtue of him being a rookie he needs experience to play in the NFL. The preseason is a perfect time for him to breakout as he’s going to be a big part of our season.”
Godwin’s teammates say the defensive backs that will be responsible for covering him in August are in for a rude awakening.
“The preseason is where the rest of the league will find out about who Chris Godwin is,” Adjei-Barimah said. “It could be the Chris Godwin show. He’s going to get a ton of reps. He’s built to be the guy that we target. He looks great. Everyone is about to find out.”
Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: email@example.com
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