Howard looking to play a role for Bucs

by Gary Shelton on October 20, 2021

in general

Howard is still chasing his potential./TIM WIRT

Wednesday, 3 a.m.

By now, he was supposed to be a force.

By now, O.J. Howard was supposed to be among the elite of NFL tight ends. He was supposed to split zones deep He was supposed to shrug off tacklers. He was supposed to be a devastating blocker.

Five years in, however, and Howard is chasing his potential.

Howard, 26, five seasons removed from being a No. 1 draft pick, has become a contributor for the Tampa Bay Bucs. No, he isn't what he was

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projected to be -- you can partially blame injuries for it -- but he slots in as yet another weapon in Tom Brady's offense. He has 10 receptions for 100 yards, which won't make an Pro Bowls, but considering that he missed most of last season, it's a start.

"He was scratching the surface (when he was hurt last year)," said Bucs' coach Bruce Arians. "I mean he was really coming on like gangbusters last year and then he got hurt. And that's a hard injury to get over. It's a 12-month job. He's doing a heck of a job right now."

Arians thinks Howard is improved because of a comfort level with Brady and a return to health.

"I think all of the above," Arians said. "Obviously, practicing with him and doing all those things [helps], but just being comfortable that, 'I can run. I can do all those things. I can change directions.' His run-after-catch was really good and it's just going to continue to build confidence."

Howard is enjoying being more than an observer.

"It feels good," Howard said. "With the work that was put in, obviously iI'm always happy when you get a chance to see it come to light on Sunday, or Thursday in that case. It felt really good. Every week, [I’m] just trying to keep stacking them up and adding onto it.

"I've been here five years now – it’s one of those things, you can never get too high or too low. Just stay in between. It’s going to be an opportunity to make plays again and just do the routine things. Once I do those things, all of the other stuff will come. Just make the routine plays.”

Going into Sunday's game against the Bears, Howard is just looking to play a role on a high-powered offense.

“When you are able to run the ball – especially with the weapons we have in the passing game, and you put that on top of it – it’s hard to stop us," Howard said. "It’s just hard to stop it. Also there’s a mentality when you start running the ball and being physically demanding on someone else – it takes away their pride. We’ve been doing that the past couple weeks running the ball hard and we’ve got to keep it up.”

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