A Linebacker And A Legend Talk O.J. Howard

August 26th, 2019

Sage of Tampa Bay Sports Ira Kaufman looks at O.J. Howard in his Monday column.

JoeBucsFan.com columnist

Potential is a nine-letter word that all too often turns out to be a four-letter curse word.

O.J. Howard is starting to think “potential” is his middle name, so he plans on doing something about it this fall. He plans on staking his claim as the NFL’s premier tight end.

If you’ve watched No. 80 in training camp, you know this third-year pro means business.

“Have you been at practice?” Kevin Minter said when I asked him about Howard’s new focus. “I don’t think he even knows how good he can be. This kid’s getting better every day. You can’t run with him vertically and he jumps over everybody. If he takes that next extra step, he’ll be a nightmare for everyone we face.”

Only 24, Howard has teased Buc fans with his skill set. His average of 16.6 yards per catch each year led all tight ends, but injuries have robbed him of eight games.

O.J. Howard

Given the departures of Adam Humphries and DeSean Jackson, there should be more footballs sent in Howard’s direction — and that’s good news.

Through two seasons, Howard has been targeted an average of only 3.6 times per game. That’s way too low for a player of Howard’s stature. In contrast, the Chiefs have targeted Pro Bowl tight end Travis Kelce 272 times in the past two years, an average of 8.8 per game.

Howard’s catch rate of 69 percent is a tick higher than Kelce’s, yet his NFL profile is considerably lower.

My advice to Howard is simple: reach out to former tight end Jimmie Giles, the third member of Tampa Bay’s Ring of Honor. In his day, Giles was big, fast and tough. Hall of Famers like Lawrence Taylor and Richard Dent said Giles was the only offensive player on the Bucs who concerned them in the early 1980s.

“I’ve seen Jimmie Giles around our building, but I’ve never had a chance to meet him,” Howard said. “If somebody says I remind them of Jimmie Giles, that’s definitely a compliment. It’s a really good thing to hear. The biggest thing for me is to play 16 games and take it to the next level. It’s all about knowing what to do and playing fast.”

Giles, a four-time Pro Bowl selection who averaged 15.4 yards per catch during his nine years with the Bucs, can’t wait to impart some knowledge to a potential clone.

There’s that word again.

“This guy has the talent to be one of the best in the game,” Giles says. “I would love to talk to him because I’m a die-hard Buccaneer and O.J. has the ability to be great.”

Giles took pride in being an all-around player. He stood out in John McKay’s run-oriented attack because he was a stout blocker who quickly earned the trust of Doug Williams as a downfield threat.

Buccaneers Ring of Honor member Jimmie Giles

Two tricks of the trade that helped Giles develop into a star could also benefit Howard. Giles made it a habit of running into the end zone after every catch in practice and running with his knees up when he found himself in traffic after a reception.

“Howard’s lean and tall and if he gets those knees up, nobody’s going to want to tackle him,” Giles says. “My main message to him is simple: if you want to be recognized in this game, leave it with no regrets. Be the best you can be.”

Howard’s size/speed package makes him a challenging matchup problem, but the truth is he’s not a finished product. His route running needs more precision if he wants to lengthen his separation from defenders.

“This is not college,” Minter says. “Everybody is good at this level. He knows he left some meat on the bone with that injury last season. O.J. came into camp thinking this is my year. You can see it every day. I tell him you don’t understand what you could be.”

Great fun, food and Bucs passion at Buffalo Wild Wings all season long. Watch every road game with Ira Kaufman and JoeBucsFan.com readers. Great giveaways, too. The preseason opener was a blast.

15 Responses to “A Linebacker And A Legend Talk O.J. Howard”

  1. Kobe Faker Says:

    “With our pathetic right side of our offensive line, OJ will be forced to help block on instead of running pass routes

    OJ will be surgically stuck next to Cappa’s 100 lb a$$”

    Kobe Faker

  2. Says:

    I hate to say it, but with the amount of yards that OJ racked up on busted coverages over his first two seasons, hard not to see his yardage come back down to earth. Hope to see an uptick in usage in goal line passing situations, so TD’s should hopefully increase. Good player. Is he better than Engram or Njoku drafted after him… time will tell. hope so. think so.

  3. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    Think we definitely have been saving him this preseason…..He should be targeted often…..

  4. Swampbuc Says:

    This Kobe Faker character is a troll right? No one can believe these outrageous literary clams hitting the floor right?

    Two things have limited O.J. his first two years

    1. His health — has missed 30% of the games due to injury
    2. Koetter hated rookies. The sub-3 targets per game that Howard received is a testament to that.

    And for the Brate hater around here — really? The hip injury that dude played through in 2018, most of the haters would have been in a wheelchair for.

    Joes- don’t know how you and the manbeast do it.

  5. JimbobBucsFan Says:

    Good stuff, Swampbuc!

  6. JimbobBucsFan Says:

    I know that all the players on the team have been/will be given target weights specifically for each of them. I wonder if BA asked the Buccaneers not to post any changes to information yet? It will be interesting to see what weight several players are shown as carrying on our roster list once the season gets underway.

    I see that Howard is currently listed as 6-6, 251 pounds on the official roster. Don’t know if that is correct at this time.

  7. BucEmUp Says:

    It needs to be godwin, evans, howard and schnell out there and.as.far as I can.see Dare guves them.the best rushing attack. Im tired of.seeing these top shelf players used as decoys.Howard, Godwin and Evans full time with Schnell and Perriman in certain situations with the best running backs.out there regardless of.their name.and.draft position. Im really nervous with Leftwhich calling plays.

  8. The Fighting Schiano’s Says:


    Once again, the ignorant dribble that you spew out in making us all dumber.

    At no point in any of your ramblings have you made any sense.

    I award you 0 points and may god have mercy on your soul.

  9. The Fighting Schiano’s Says:


    Thanks for your refreshing take. Him and Tmax are the absolute worst. They both have to be NFC South opponent fans.

    Almost ruins this site IMO.

  10. Rod Munch Says:

    It was a bit concerning last Friday night when the TE wasn’t being targeted at all really. It’s only a bit concerning since we’re only seeing part of the playbook, but in Arizona, Arians didn’t use the TE all that much either.

  11. Destinjohnny Says:

    Imagine if he played with a top 10 qb and had a good offensive line win a running game ?

  12. sincethebeginning Says:

    Helluva good article, Ira! Thank You. We need more features like this on this site…

    And lord did I love how Jimmie Giles played tight end. He is one of my all time favorite Bucs!!

  13. Bucsfanman Says:

    Great advice from Giles! “Toughness”! Leave it all out there.

  14. Dreambig Says:

    Fascinating. We have Cameron Brate who is an absolute beast who stays on the field, plays great and makes an impact game after game. Then we have this other young guy Howard who is a great physical specimen who has not done much because he can’t stay on the field, but gets all the hype and accolades like he is a superstar, mean while Brate is a forgotten man. Don’t get me wrong, I hope Howard blows up and lives up to all this hype, but let’s wait till he actually has some consistent real world accomplishments in NFL games before we send in his hall of fame ballot. Only targeted 3.6 times per game? Is he not getting open with all this amazing, inhuman speed? Or should I be asking why Jameis isn’t throwing him the ball. My point is simply this, I wish the media would turn down the hype until Howard dominates in a few games and actually earns it.

  15. Bucamania Says:

    Time for OJ to break out. I recently saw a list of the Top 10 NFL TEs and OJ wasn’t even listed. Feed the beast!