Tampa Bay Buccaneers have the “Juice” at tight end

O.J. Howard, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, teammate of Tom Brady Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
O.J. Howard, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, teammate of Tom Brady Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

If you loved what you saw brewing chemistry-wise between Tom Brady and O.J. Howard early on last season for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who could blame you? Those four games offered a promising glimpse of what fans could expect of then new-to-Tampa quarterback Brady and their plenty-to-prove tight end dubbed “Juice”.

It was evident since the 2020 season opener that Brady trusted Howard. It wasn’t that he was targeted a ton, but Brady looked to Howard in some big moments and the tight end delivered the goods in those first four games. Above all, fans saw Juice stretching the field, hinting at the prolific deep ball season to follow. Fans saw Juice making clutch plays, they saw him making the contested catches that you expect of your dominant 6-feet 6-inch playmaker. Unfortunately, fans also saw a season-ending injury sideline their beloved tight end.

Now, his four-game stats don’t exactly glow, but for Juice to have had 11 catches for 146 yards and two touchdowns, one can easily surmise what that might’ve looked like over a full season. For fun, call it 44 receptions, 584 yards, and eight TDs. Not too shabby. Consider also such a stat line would account for Howard’s best year in the NFL and those projected numbers might have been even better had Juice continued to develop his chemistry with Brady instead of tearing his Achilles.

So what can we expect from Juice this 2021 season now that Cameron Brate has proven himself a reliable go-to for Brady and NFL legend Rob Gronkowski reestablishing his blocking and pass-catching dominance?

It’s safe to say that Howard will pick up where he left off. Expect Juice to be plugged in right away. Expect the Bucs to use even more two tight end sets which will help with their run game and help keep the defenses on their toes. Having Howard back is a beautiful thing. His return will help to keep Brate & Gronkowski fresher and healthier for the NFL’s first 17 game season.

Similar to the magnificent depth at the wide receiver position, the Bucs are now back to brimful with tight end talent. Buccaneers fans can’t wait to see how quickly Howard gets back up to speed with things and how quickly he’ll become an impact player.  All signs from training camp suggest it won’t be long.

Official predictions for OJ Howard this 2021 season:

35 receptions, 520 yards, seven touchdowns

So Bucs fans, get ready for the return of OJ Howard. Get ready for plenty of Juice!