Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end O.J. Howard had a rookie season which certainly displayed why Jason Licht selected him with their first-round draft pick in 2017. Now, he’ll be looking to do even more and he spoke about it to the media following the team’s mandatory mini-camp.
With the new season coming up, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been busy with OTAs and their recent mini-camp.
Those present an opportunity not only to get back to football as a team, but to get better individually before the pads start popping again.
What does the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ tight end want to get better at specifically? Well, in his own word,
"“…the run game, running routes, getting open a lot in man coverage…”"
Howard was drafted because he represented a combination of everything the team needed in a tight end.
Cameron Brate is an effective receiver and has the ability to burst out as a star NFL player during any season. His blocking leaves a little to be desired though.
Luke Stocker was a better blocker but getting him in and out of his routes was rough.
Alan Cross had potential of course, and he still does, but still, the team felt it was necessary to bring in a guy who was just a little further along the development chart.
So, Howard was it. And he made an impact early. Both he and Brate appeared on nearly half of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ offensive snaps, though they didn’t appear on the field at the same time as much as most thought they would.
There was even some question about how much the Bucs would be willing to pay Brate for his return to Tampa given the presence and performance of Howard. Happily, that situation didn’t end with a divorce between one of Jameis Winston’s favorite targets and the franchise.
Now we enter 2018. Training camp is a little over a month away and we’re all anxiously awaiting the opportunity to see what this new squad does with pads on.
Should we expect a better version of Howard this year? According to him, yes,
"“I would say the game changed a lot to me, just mentally. Slowing things down, understanding the playbook a lot better, so that just does a great job of helping me play fast and knowing what to do.”"
See, this is the scary thing about good rookies. They’re just getting to know how to be a pro.
Nobody, not even Alabama alumni, come into the NFL as an NFL player. It just doesn’t work that way.
Even the ones who are effective in year one are considered to be ‘mature beyond their age’ or ‘supremely gifted’ or they get some other superlative attached to them. It’s just not normal.
Howard didn’t light the world on fire but given his performance as a rookie, it’s fun to imagine what he might do now that he actually knows what to expect entering year two.
He’s confident. This has never been in question. But the confidence he has in himself and the other tight ends seems to be bleeding over a bit, as Howard commented on how coach Koetter may look to employ the group this upcoming season,
"“I think always our tight end group has had chances to make great plays. Coach Koetter does a great job of drawing up plays for us and this year he sees a lot of potential that we have again so when the plays are called, we’ve just got to make them when they come our way.”"
Honestly, I feel like we could see a little bit of
from the Saints days with Howard this season.
We all know Brate has his patented seam route in the red zone, now it’s time to see what Howard’s go-to will be.
He’s excited to get going, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans should be getting excited to watch it.