4 pleasant surprises for the Buccaneers in 2018

CHARLOTTE, NC - NOVEMBER 04: Ryan Fitzpatrick #14 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers makes a call at the line against the Carolina Panthers in the second quarter during their game at Bank of America Stadium on November 4, 2018 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC - NOVEMBER 04: Ryan Fitzpatrick #14 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers makes a call at the line against the Carolina Panthers in the second quarter during their game at Bank of America Stadium on November 4, 2018 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) /
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CHARLOTTE, NC – NOVEMBER 04: O.J. Howard #80 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers scores a touchdown against the Carolina Panthers during the first half of their game at Bank of America Stadium on November 4, 2018 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC – NOVEMBER 04: O.J. Howard #80 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers scores a touchdown against the Carolina Panthers during the first half of their game at Bank of America Stadium on November 4, 2018 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) /

TE O.J. Howard

Everyone knew how talented Howard is. The former first-round selection was bound to become one of the best tight ends in the league, but it happened sooner than anyone could have predicted.

Tampa Bay still has veteran Cameron Brate on the roster and it looked like the duo would continue to split the role as starting tight end. However, Howard emerged quickly and dominated the snap count, proving to be the true starter.

Howard ranks as one of the premier tight ends on the stat sheet. On the year, Howard has racked up 28 catches, 472 yards, and five touchdowns.

Despite his success in small windows in the red zone, Howard’s 16.9 yards per catch number makes him more of a deep threat than safety blanket. His speed over the middle makes him a tough cover for linebackers, and his strength allows him to bounce off of safeties for long gains.

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He still has room to improve, but Howard is trending towards becoming the Buccaneers greatest weapon.