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Impact of Chris Godwin’s torn ACL on Tampa Bay Buccaneers Super Bowl hopes

Vincent Frank

Star wide receiver Chris Godwin has been Tom Brady’s favorite target for the defending champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers this season.

Through 14 games, the Pro Bowler has caught 98-of-127 targets for 1,103 yards and five touchdowns. He also boasts an absurd 77.2% catch rate.

Unfortunately for the Buccaneers, Godwin suffered a knee injury in Sunday night’s ugly shutout loss to the New Orleans Saints.

While it was initially deemed that he sprained an MCL in his knee, we got further information from Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians on Monday. It’s not good. Godwin apparently suffered a torn ACL and will miss the remainder of the season. That’s just a brutal blow for a team coming off the worst performance of the Brady era.

Related: More questions than answers for Buccaneers following shutout loss

Chris Godwin injury could derail Buccaneers’ season

chris godwin torn acl, tampa bay buccaneers
Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

It was also noted that fellow wide receiver Mike Evans has a strained hamstring. He’s questionable to go Week 16 against the hapless Carolina Panthers. As with any hamstring injury, this could very well linger throughout the remainder of the regular season and the playoffs.

Godwin not only leads the Buccaneers in catches and targets, it’s not necessarily close when it comes to Tampa Bay’s other wide receivers.

  • Chris Godwin: 127 targets, 98 catches
  • Mike Evans: 100 targets, 64 catches
  • Antonio Brown: 42 targets, 29 catches
  • Tyler Johnson: 42 targets, 27 catches
  • Jaelon Darden: 11 targets, 6 catches

Related: Tampa Bay Buccaneers schedule and game-by-game predictions

In fact, running back Leonard Fournette is second among Buccaneers players with 69 catches through 14 games. Defenses can now hone in on him when it comes to short and intermediate routes.

Focus on that side of the ball will also be sent in the direction of star tight end Rob Gronkowski. He has 40 catches for 527 yards in nine games. Much like what we saw from Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen Sunday night once Godwin and Evans went down, look for opponents to cover Gronkowski with safety help over the top now that one of the Bucs’ top outside receiving threats is lost for the season.

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Sans Chris Godwin, other Buccaneers players must step up

NFL injury report, Antonio Brown
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Out since Week 6 with both an injury and league-mandated suspension, Antonio Brown should return in time for Sunday’s outing against the Panthers. There was some thought that Tampa might release him after he was suspended for faking a COVID-19 vaccine card (that’s an actual thing). Not so fast.

“It’s in the best interest of our football team,” head coach Bruce Arians said of both Brown and defensive back Mike Edwards. “Both of those guys have served their time and we’ll welcome them back.”

In 13 career games with the Buccaneers dating back to last season, the seven-time Pro Bowler has caught 74 passes for 901 yards and eight touchdowns.

Tyler Johnson is also a rather big wildcard for the defending champs in the absence of Chris Godwin. The former fifth-round pick from Minnesota has not seen a whole bunch of action since joining the Buccaneers back in 2020.

However, he has seen an uptick in action over the past several weeks with Brown sidelined. Since Week 6, Johnson has played in 64-plus percent of the Buccaneers’ offensive snaps six out of eight games. He’s caught 20-of-28 targets for a mere 178 yards during that span. Simply put, Tom Brady and Co. need him to step up.

Chris Godwin now facing NFL free agency

This past off-season saw Godwin fail to agree to a long-term extension with Tampa Bay. Rather, the former Penn State star is earning $15.98 million under the franchise tag.

Now set to hit free agency in less than three months, Godwin is dealing with a torn ACL. This injury will sideline him well into the 2022 NFL season — impacting the receiver’s ability to cash in on a lucrative long-term deal and increasing the likelihood he re-signs with the Bucs. Such is the nature of the beast in today’s NFL.

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