Tuesday marked the end of O.J. Howard’s 2018 campaign. He will head to the injured reserve due to foot and ankle problems.
Howard went down late in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s loss to the New York Giants after making his last catch of the contest.
Although the Buccaneers are mostly out of the playoff race, Howard’s injury is a tough break. In both of his NFL seasons, he has ended the season on injured reserve with lower leg injuries.
It’s still too early to tell if Howard is an injury-prone player, but he will have missed eight games in two years.
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Howard was in the middle of a strong sophomore campaign. He hauled in 34 catches for 565 yards and five touchdowns. His 16.6 yards per reception is the best mark among tight ends. His catch total may not match up to other tight ends, but his ability to break off a long catch and run is unmatched.
Luckily for the Bucs, they have a reliable replacement in Cameron Brate.
Moving to a secondary role in 2018, Brate hasn’t put up impressive numbers. His 17 catches for 159 yards aren’t what Tampa Bay fans have come to expect from him. But with Howard’s emergence, that’s all the Bucs required from him this season.
Now back into the spotlight, Brate has the chance to be a primary target in the offense. Plus, with Jameis Winston inserted back at quarterback, Brate could be in for a significant boost in production.
Former undrafted free agent Anthony Auclair will now be the backup tight end. He has earned compliments from the coaching staff for years, but never got much of a chance with the talented duo in front of him.
In a corresponding roster move, the Bucs signed former Cincinnati Bengals and Kansas City Chiefs defensive back Josh Shaw. He will provide depth in the secondary.