Tampa Bay took another hit to its depth chart on Wednesday with placing star wide receiver Antonio Brown on the reserve/COVID-19 list.
Brown may miss the Bucs’ Week 3 road game against the Los Angeles Rams because of the reserve/COVID-19 list designation, Buccaneers.com’s Scott Smith reported. The Bucs already placed linebacker Kevin Minter on that list earlier in the week, and the team also can’t promote wide receiver Travis Jonsen from the practice squad because he also landed on the reserve list per Smith.
For Brown to return by Sunday’s game, he will need to test negative for COVID-19 twice per NFL.com’s Michael Baca. The Bucs reported being 100-percent vaccinated as a team in early September per ESPN. Breakthrough cases of COVID-19 for the vaccinated has been an ongoing issue for months according to the CDC.
While Bucs quarterback Tom Brady will still have plenty of talented receivers to throw to on Sunday, Brown had the biggest game among Bucs receivers in the Week 1 opener against Dallas. Brown caught five passes for 121 yards and one touchdown.
He didn’t do as much in Week 2 against Atlanta with just a 17-yard reception, but the Bucs may miss his ability to stretch the field. He leads all Bucs receivers at 23 yards per catch. His 138 yards receiving is second among Bucs wideouts.
Brown Will Missed for Special Teams and Depth
Tampa also assigned Brown to punt returns in Week 2, but he didn’t get to return any, per Smith. It could wear the Bucs thin on return teams as kick returner Jaydon Mickens may miss the next game after injuring his hip against the Falcons, Smith noted. Rookie wide receiver and kick returner Jaelon Darden hasn’t played a regular season snap yet.
“We’ve got capable guys,” Bucs head coach Bruce Arians said via The Athletic’s Greg Auman regarding possible kick returners.
Arians mentioned wide receiver Scotty Miller and safety Antoine Winfield Jr. as possibilities besides Darden, too, per Auman.
For receiver depth, the Bucs have plenty with Mike Evans, who caught two touchdowns against Atlanta, and Chris Godwin, who grabbed touchdown passes in both of the first two games. The Bucs also have Miller and Tyler Johnson for Brady to target in addition to tight ends Rob Gronkowski, O.J. Howard, and Cameron Brate.
Opportunity for Other Bucs to Shine
As Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio noted, many of the aforementioned pass catches haven’t seen many targets yet. Johnson caught a pass for five yards on three targets, and Miller hasn’t seen a pass thrown to him yet. Howard had a 21-yard catch and Brate an eight-yard reception through two games.
“I would not say he’s 100 percent,”Arians told WDAE on Tuesday via JoeBucsFan.com. “He’s getting real close. He’s getting real close and we’re going to try to up his snap count.”
The Bucs have used both Howard and Gronkowski on the field together thus far, which bore success in Howard’s lone catch in two games. It may help the downfield passing attack if Brown can’t go, too.
“Gronk drew the coverage, we had two seam routes going, and when those two big guys are running down the field, they can stretch it pretty good,” Arians said via JoeBucsFan.