Antonio Brown was arguably the best wide receiver in the NFL over the past decade, ranking second in the league in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns from 2010 to 2019 — despite missing nearly all of the 2019 season due to off-field incidents. Brown has played three games since signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the results likely have not lived up to his team’s expectations when they brought him aboard.
Brown has 18 catches for 157 yards and no touchdowns, averaging just 8.7 yards per catch. His reception total has gone up each game, but Brown’s longest catch in 2020 has gone for 25 yards — the only 20-plus yard catch he’s had this season. This is a surprising development, since Brown has 164 receptions of at least 20 yards since 2010, the second most in the NFL.
Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians doesn’t think Brown has lost a step or that he isn’t being used properly with his new team. The problem is out of Brown’s control.
“Well, he was open. We had one go off his fingertips [and] I’m used to seeing him make that catch. We missed him last week on a ball, so it’s just a matter of hitting him,” Arians said Tuesday. “He’s doing a great job of running after the catch and within his role, I think he’s doing a really good job. It’s just when he’s going deep, we’re not hitting him.”
Those problems last beyond Brown, having a large part to do with Tom Brady’s struggles with deep passes. Per NFL’s Next Gen Stats, Brady is 0 for 19 on deep passes (20-plus air yards down the field) over his last four games, three of which being the games Brown has played. In the first seven games of the season, Brady was 14 for 39 (35.9%) on deep ball passes with two touchdowns and no interceptions for a passer rating of 101.2. Brady is just 3 for 36 on deep passes since Week 5 of the season.
The struggles are well out of Brown’s hands — literally. All signs point to Brady, as Arians believes he’s found his issues regarding deep passes.
“Other than the deep ball, I think he’s getting confused a few times with coverage that might be causing some inaccurate balls,” Arians said. “I don’t see it at all in practice. We’re not missing the deep ball at all in practice – that’s for sure. It’s just a matter on Sundays of hitting them.”