The Buccaneers announced Wednesday that Antonio Brown was placed on the NFL's Reserve/COVID-19 list. The All-Pro receiver is fully vaccinated, so he will need to not only be asymptomatic, but he will need to have two negative tests within 24 hours if he wants to play on Sunday.
The Rams are going to be a tough opponent, so losing one of your best receiving options is never a good scenario. Especially when you're going up against two very good corners in Jalen Ramsey and Darious Williams. But the good news for the Bucs is they have plenty of capable options to replace Brown. None of them are potential Hall of Fame receivers (yet), but they can be effective and Byron Leftwich knows how to utilize them in the correct manner.
So who can the Bucs turn to if Brown can't go on Sunday? We know the obvious answers in Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Rob Gronkowski, but those guys can't be heroes on every play.
Or maybe they can? Either way, it'd be nice to see one of the following players step up on Sunday if Brown does miss the game.
The second-year wideout has the best chance to see an uptick in playing time on Sunday due to his skill set. Johnson can work the intermediate game very well and he's also capable of working screens and going deep.
Johnson's limited experience will likely prevent him from taking every single one of Brown's snaps. In all honesty, I'd expect a heavy rotation of multiple players. One guy isn't going to just step in and take over.
Johnson was out-snapped by Scotty Miller, 8-3, in Week 1, but saw a big increase in playing time during Week 2 and actually out-snapped Miller, 17-13. Johnson is a good route runner, has good hands, and is very explosive after the catch. He's also made some big plays in his young career (see the 3rd and 12 catch against the Saints in the playoffs), so he's not afraid of the big stage.
Miller has shown a lot of growth over his first three years in the league, but he's still limited in what he can do on the field. However, he's very, very good at what he does best - which is go deep.
Before Brown came along, Miller was one of the top targets on the Bucs offense. Per Sports Info Solutions, he led the team in receiving yards (400) ran the second-most routes (217), had the third-most targets (38) and the second-most first downs among all receivers, backs, and tight ends through Weeks 1-8 of last year.
Miller is a deep threat and can do some work with screens from time-to-time, but his speed is his main asset. This is evidenced by his team-leading 12.2-yard average depth of completion, 16-yards per completion, 305 air yards, and 10.5-yards per target through Weeks 1-8. Miller's issue is that he's still figuring out how to work the intermediate game. He will see more playing time on Sunday, but it will likely be in specialized situations.
A lot of people are probably expecting to see O.J. Howard before Brate and with good reason. But Brate has been played more over the last two weeks, so it's logical to think that continues this weekend.
Brown's injury could mean the Bucs incorporate more 12 personnel, which wouldn't be anything out of the ordinary. The Bucs label their base offense as 12 personnel, which is a bit surprising when considering who is on the roster.
Regardless, Brate has one of the most reliable sets of hands on the team and he can be very productive when called upon. He was the team's leader in receiving yards through the first two games of the playoffs last year, so don't be surprised if you see him make some plays on Sunday.
Howard is a better athlete than Brate, but he's finding his way back into the offense after last year's Achilles injury.
The Rams play a lot of Cover 2/Quarters, so the middle of the field will be open for the taking, which is where the fifth-year tight end thrives. If there's ever a time for Howard to get back on track, it's this week.
Stay tuned to AllBucs for further coverage of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and other NFL news and analysis. Follow along on social media at @SIBuccaneers on Twitter and Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sports Illustrated on Facebook.