O.J. Howard is on the cusp of becoming one of the league’s best tight ends; if he isn’t already. It appears that the Buccaneers have another elite weapon at their disposal.
Despite a crowded receiving corps, O.J. Howard has managed to stand out and solidify himself as the top tight end on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
With Tampa’s pass-first approach, Howard’s versatility to line up out wide makes him a more valuable piece. He plays tight end more like a wide receiver; his speed creates a mismatch for any linebacker in coverage.
Take a look at this play. Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Jordan Hicks (58) is in coverage against Howard. Hicks is a speedy linebacker and typically plays well in pass coverage, but Howard left him in the dust.
Furthermore, defensive backs aren’t interested in trying to tackle him. Look at Ronald Darby (#21) attempt to take Howard down. Darby had no chance.
Pro Football Focus graded Howard as the number one tight end in the NFL through eight weeks. His combination of strong run blocking and elite receiving skills make him a versatile piece in Tampa’s offense.
The high PFF grade may be a surprise to many Buccaneers fans. Remember, it was only a year ago that he was the lowest graded first-round pick in the 2017 class.
So far this season, Howard has caught 24 passes for 419 yards and three touchdowns. Howard is on the cusp of surpassing his totals from last season in each category.
Although Cameron Brate matched Howard’s three touchdowns so far this season, Howard has seen the majority of the playing time.
The difference not only lies in Howard’s versatility as a run blocker and receiver but his big-play ability, especially when Ryan Fitzpatrick is under center.
Out of every tight end with more than 10 catches on the year, Howard has the highest yards per catch every in the league, racking up 17.5 yards per reception. That is a tremendous number.
To put it into perspective, each time Howard makes a catch, it moves the chains for Tampa Bay. There isn’t a better third-down target in the league.
Our Michael Horan listed Howard as his pick for the Breakout Player Award at the midway point of the season and its hard to say otherwise.
At only 23, the future is bright for Howard. The Buccaneers passing attack will be among the best in the league regardless of which quarterback on the field because of players like Howard and Evans.