In just his third season, O.J. Howard has gone from a fringe breakout star to becoming a forgotten piece of one of the best offenses in the NFL.
Anyone else besides myself feel as if there’s been no news regarding the future plans of 2017 first round pick, O.J. Howard, for the Buccaneers in 2020? Its definitely concerning, but the third year pro out of Alabama has slowly begun to be less and less productive.
Is that truly the case? Or is Howard simply a casualty of an Arians led offense that notoriously utilizes tight ends more for blocking than downfield catching? Let’s break it down.
In Howard’s rookie season, in which he shared snaps with an emerging Cameron Brate, the gifted tight end produced whenever he was on the field. Playing in Dirk Koetter’s balanced offensive play scheme, O.J. finished the season with 26 receptions and 432 yards, while also reaching the end zone six times.
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In that year, Howard played in 14 games and was on the field for 64% of all offensive snaps. Keep this number in mind for later. In year two, Howard expanded all levels of his play, even after only playing in 10 games due to injury ( six games less than his rookie season).
In his last season in Koetter’s offense, O.J. began to show flashes of All-Pro type play in his limited minutes. Before his season was cut short, Howard accumulated more receptions (34) and more receiving yards (565) than the previous year and it looked as if his trajectory was soaring. And to most, that was absolutely the case.
Year three for Howard, unfortunately, had different plans. After the head coach who helped draft him was ousted, in came Bruce Arians. Arians originally assured that a physically gifted player like O.J. would be utilized heavily in his “no risk it, no biscuit” offense. By seasons’ end, the third year tight end had the same amount receptions as he had in his sophomore season (34), but his overall production tanked a bit.
In 14 games, Howard produced only one touchdown and 459 yards. All of this was accomplished while playing in in nearly 80% (79.2%) of all offensive snaps. Let me remind you, O.J. produced 432 yards and six touchdowns his rookie year playing in only 64% of offensive snaps. So what has changed?
Simply put, it seems that the stats would say Howard is being underutilized. Yet, none of us know for sure exactly what’s going on with O.J. Is he simply reaching his ceiling early? Is Arians using Howard more primarily as a blocker in his vertical offense? Is he simply not as great as we once thought? (That’s a stretch).
Whatever the true reason might be, rumors of the former NCAA champion being on the trading block have circulated around the Bay Area. What should the Buccaneers do with the former first-round pick? Sound off in the comments.