Having too many weapons is a good problem to have for Bucs, but for some like tight end OJ Howard, this is his final chance to be a major contributor for the team. The Bucs’ first round choice in the 2017 Draft, the Alabama alum has hardly produced to his potential. He surpassed 500 receiving yards only once in his four-year career. Howard only played in 44 games in his career with injuries cutting his seasons short in 2018, 2019 and 2020.
OJ Howard Struggles
Howard’s peak scoring was during his first two seasons in 2017 and 2018 under head coach Dirk Koetter and GM Jason Licht with 11 touchdowns. Since 2019, he only scored three. His first official catch of the 2021 season was against the Atlanta Falcons for a 21-yard catch. Prior to his injury in 2020, it looked like he would start to hit his stride until week four against the Chicago Bears. In his contract year, Howard continues to fight for playing time in a pass-heavy scheme with fellow back up Cameron Brate with Rob Gronkowski firmly set as starter.
How can Howard stay relevant? Well as the Bucs face more opponents with fiercer pass rushes like Los Angeles Rams, blocking becomes more invaluable than before. More will send blitz packages to overwhelm quarterback Tom Brady to disrupt his rhythm and the offensive line. Tight ends are already heavily used particularly on run packages. Best thing for Howard to show up is helping to block for screens and for primary backs Ronald Jones and Leonard Fournette while making the best of playaction opportunities using his athleticism to create clutch plays. Continuing to block and staying to healthy to the end of the season will determine if he can last to his next contract or if he’ll fizzle like another infamous tight end bust in Austin Sefarian Jenkins.