While the Tampa Bay Buccaneers already had an elite group of receivers during the 2020 campaign, Antonio Brown gave the team a different dynamic once he started playing in the last half of the year. He wasn’t quite the same player who earned four consecutive first-team All-Pro selections with the Pittsburgh Steelers and was a two-time NFL receiving yard leader. But he showed he was still an elite athlete.
However, what does it mean if Brown can get back to the same level he was playing at during his Steelers days? It means the rest of the league should be terrified.
So, is that possible? Well, Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians may have recently alluded to that being the case.
Buccaneers receiver Antonio Brown had knee surgery this offseason
The Buccaneers already had a stacked group of receivers prior to Antonio Brown joining them toward the last half of the year in 2020. He then came in and gave Tom Brady another elite weapon to throw to, catching 45 passes for 483 yards and four touchdowns in eight games.
During the divisional round, though, the star pass-catcher suffered an injury that led to him missing the NFC Championship Game. But Brown came back for the Super Bowl and caught five passes for 22 yards and a touchdown. He ultimately helped the Buccaneers beat the Kansas City Chiefs 31-9 to win the title.
However, in light of his injury in the divisional round, the seven-time Pro Bowler had arthroscopic knee surgery in May. It appears that the procedure has helped him back to an unstoppable level.
Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians made an astonishing claim about AB
“This is the healthiest he’s been in a few years,” Arians said when discussing Brown’s injury, per ESPN. “It’s been bothering him for a couple of years. Now it’s all clean, so it’s good.”
He continued: “He probably needed that procedure, but he wouldn’t do it. It’s amazing, I was talking to Emmanuel Sanders last night and that was his first surgery — ever. At his age  — it’s just amazing. It’s remarkable how he takes care of himself. He’s playing at a speed that we saw four or five years ago.”
Bruce Arians’ claim about Antonio Brown can turn into the NFL’s worst nightmare
So, Arians thinks Brown is playing at the same speed he was four or five years ago? If true, that’s terrifying.
In 2020, Tom Brady threw for his most yards (4,633) in a season since 2015 and the second-most touchdowns (40) of his entire career. He, of course, had Evans, Godwin, Scotty Miller, and Rob Gronkowski to throw to for the majority of the year (all but Godwin played in 16 games), and had Brown, who had only played in one game since the 2018 campaign, for half the season.
However, if AB is back to where he was four or five years ago, Brady has a chance to have a career year.
Brown was a first-team All-Pro in 2017 and led the NFL in receiving yards with 1,533. He also had 101 receptions and nine touchdown catches. It was his fifth straight year catching more than 100 passes, and the fourth time in five seasons he gained 1,499 receiving yards or more. The Central Michigan product was easily the best receiver in the NFL at that point.
As mentioned earlier, though, Brown didn’t play in the NFC Championship Game last year and only had 22 yards in the Super Bowl. So, the Buccaneers essentially didn’t need him to win the title. But if he’s potentially back to where he was in 2017, the reigning Super Bowl champs are adding arguably the best receiver in the NFL. He can take that already explosive offense (30.8 points per game in 2020) to a whole new level.
To put it simply: The rest of the NFL should be terrified.
Brown and the Buccaneers already proved they are a force to be reckoned with, but a fully healthy AB could become the league’s worst nightmare.
Stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference