The Decline Of O.J. Howard

January 9th, 2020


Has former first-round pick O.J. Howard been phased out of the offense or is he just being misused?

It seems from the writings of Vincent Verhei of Football Outsiders, Howard is a victim of a coach who doesn’t like tight ends.

Joe seems to think this is lazy analysis but more on that in a bit. Verhei, in breaking down what players had the best and worst production this season, claims no tight end in the NFL had a bigger drop off than Howard.

Bruce Arians simply doesn’t like to throw to tight ends. In five years with the Arizona Cardinals, none of his tight ends gained 500 yards or scored more than three touchdowns in a season. Howard played four more games in 2019 than he had the year before, but his catches held steady at 34, his yardage fell from 565 to 459, and his touchdowns plummeted from five to one.

Joe seemed to recall when Bucs coach Bucco Bruce Arians ran the Steelers offense (2007-2011), tight end Heath Miller was a key cog in the passing offense. Turns out Miller’s numbers weren’t much different in the season the Steelers last won the Super Bowl as Howard’s were last year.

Joe thinks Howard may have been misused this season rather than not used. Bucs offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich had Howard stay back and block a whole lot more than he ever did previously.

As it turns out, Howard isn’t much of a blocker, or at least was overwhelmed at times as a blocker.

58 Responses to “The Decline Of O.J. Howard”

  1. ou812 Says:

    What about the Decline Of QB position???

    I know it is everybody fault but Winston!!

    It is hard to get the ball when the QB #3 has thrown it to the other team!!

  2. ou812 Says:

    There is no good Jamies bad Jameis only bad Jameis and good receivers!

  3. TheBucsAnthem Says:

    It really pisses me off that BA doesn’t utilize his talents.

    If BA doesn’t want to utilize his talents here in TB……then just trade him away for a high draft pick……………………

  4. TheBucsAnthem Says:

    ……..and it’s true…………Howard really is below average blocker……he’s no Luke Stocker and that’s a fact

    It’s certainly a head scratcher the way he’s been mis-used

  5. Alanbucsfan Says:

    Joe loves to feed OJ to the “Excuses for Jameis” crowd.
    But he never mentions Dotson’s 2 holding calls that reversed 2 TD passes to Brate vs 49ers, or his penalties that reverse ROJO runs, or maybe, the TE’s have to block more because other than passing plays, Dotson can’t block.

  6. lambchop Says:

    This is like Dirk Koetter sitting a RB because he isn’t a blocker. I mean, we have TEs that can block, TEs that can catch, and TEs that are average at both. What would you rather have from a 1st Rd TE? A blocker?

    Juice is being misused. Period. Yes, he had some drops, and so did Mike Evans. Reps, reps, reps. Create mismatches for Juice and there are very few LBs that will be able to catch OJ.

    Can BA/BL just forget that he’s a TE and use him as a WR? You can’t expect a TE to always create his own plays. You have to scheme for it.

  7. tmaxcon Says:


    Joe never once wrote a critical or honest critique of cancer93 tenure as a buc now the offensive line receives that feee pass….

    Oj has never accomplished anything nor was he ever anything more than a draft pick thst looked good on paper. The dude is soft, lazy and simply just not that good when them game starts.

    Joes word usage is getting worse in order to decline one must have reached certain heights. oj ihas never accomplished anything…. not quit as laughable as joes misunderstanding of the word legend but it is a pattern of unquestionable low standards….

  8. Dusthty Rhothdes Says:

    Does the crappy GM of the bucs ever watch and see what an impact that dalvin cook, derrick henry, kareem hunt, nick chubb, and alvin kamara are making on their teams? Those are all the RBs that licht passed on and esp cook who was sitting right there but dum dum licht grabs OJ not the rb OJ

  9. danr Says:

    Weird blocking was one his great attributes coming out the draft. He was supposed to be ‘the complete tight end’

  10. lowercaseg Says:

    When I think of OJ I think of Drops

  11. JustBucNwin Says:

    Misused! I would say trade him but rather get out from under Cam’s contract and give OJ more opportunity. Waste and abuse of talent and draft asset!

  12. TOM Says:

    Looks like loser Licht blew another one.

  13. Steven007 Says:

    Howard will never be a big factor in this offense. The Steelers days were long ago and his offense has changed since then. That said even Miller’s numbers aren’t is impressive as they could have been. If they continue to underutilize the tight ends then clearly one of our two starters won’t be on this team next season.

  14. Buc believer Says:

    2007-2011???? My goodness we are talking 9-13 years ago!!! Bruce the golf cart rider also used to call his own plays and he also had hair and didn’t wear funny hats! That long ago means nothing. See you CAN bend stats to reflect your opinion.

  15. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    It’s not just Howard, it’s also Brate……..let’s be fair to Howard……ZERO targets in the last game.

    I suspect we are using our TEs to block more for pass protection and to make up for poor Oline run blocking.

    I agree….let’s at least trade one of these guys.

  16. SB Says:

    now we know why he fell all the way to 19

  17. doolnutts Says:

    This is a big reason why I hate changing coaches every 2-3 years and why it can really screw up a team long term. Each coach has his system at the time when Koetter was here the OJ pick was outstanding because Koetter heavily featured both Howard & Brate. Anyone who looked up Bruce Arians history would have quickly noted very few tight ends had serious production under BA. If BA’s system didn’t work last year I would be upset but we had a great offense last year with Evans and Godwin so that this point it is what it is.

    I also think it is not fair to generalize Howard as a bust & blame Licht for this pick because as I said at the time when Koetter was head coach there was full intent on making Howard a heavily used piece in this offense. At this point with Bruce Arians OJ Howard is nothing more than a luxury but if we end up winning none of this will ultimately matter.


  18. Marine Buc Says:

    Looks like Tarzan plays like Jane. Trade him if you can get a third round pick or better.

  19. Jgar Says:

    You can quote stats about BA not using TEs and all that but I know what I see when I watch the games sometimes 3 times and watch him specifically. He’s lazy on a lot of plays, he’s tremendously OVERATED run blocker and he runs terrible routes. IMO he’s tremendously OVERATED but since so many of you are convinced it’s BA’s fault maybe we can find someone dumb enough to give us a 2 or 3rd round pick before the rest figure it out. Oh, by the way there was a reason why he slipped down to us at 18.

  20. Says:

    We have Tanner Hudson. Trade Brate and/or Howard before the draft and find a couple blocking tight ends.

  21. adam from ny Says:

    well one of the 2 will not be here next year…we all know that…

    brate…(who is a jameis guy)…


    howard (who is a licht guy)…

    i say howard is gone, because if jameis is here you give him the guy he trusts (brate)…

    so you keep brate and the new kid who can catch (supposedly)…tannner hudson…

    and a blocking te who can block his ass off like luke stocker…

    and if brady stays in new england, fleece the fugg out of them for howard because you know they want his soooo bad…

    howard would have a huge year with brady and we’d all be crying …lol…even the tj maxx guy

  22. adam from ny Says:

    well one of the 2 will not be here next year…we all know that…

    brate…(who is a jameis guy)…


    howard (who is a licht guy)…

    i say howard is gone, because if jameis is here you give him the guy he trusts (brate)…

    so you keep brate and the new kid who can catch (supposedly)…tannner hudson…

    and a blocking te who can block his azz off like luke stocker…

    and if brady stays in new england, fleece the fugg out of them for howard because you know they want his soooo bad…

    howard would have a huge year with brady and we’d all be crying …lol…even the tj maxx guy

  23. Buc'n Enough Says:

    2016 & 2017 Draft is all Bust except for 1 guy….Godwin.

    Licht should be banned from the draft….

  24. Davenport Says:

    OJ to the Pats for a 3rd … done!

  25. Costa Rica John Says:

    I think it’s the way he is used in this offense. Send him to the Patriots or Kansas City and he will be putting up big numbers. Plus the two WR’s we have are two of the best in the league. Your going to look for them first unless you specifically have a play designed to go to the TE.

  26. adam from ny Says:

    it’s weird, he is built like a marvel superhero yet doesn’t use his physique to dominate…

    i would think if he watched a highlight reel of george kittle he might be a little embarrassed by his own play…

    he should be going all savage out there like kittle does – dragging people, stiff arming dudes and mowing over dbs like a human lawn mower

  27. adam from ny Says:

    granted BA really doesn’t feature the TEs

  28. Kobe Faker Says:


    The Bucs sheep knows more than the Patriots and Bellichick

    They wanted OJ for their 1st round pick


    Was because BA didnt want to look bad when OJ looks great and destroys defenses when utilized correctly in a modern offense”

    Kobe Faker

  29. 813bucboi Says:

    if the defense cant stop ME13 or CG12, why force the ball to OJ?…..because he’s a big TE?…..GTFOH….

    imo, OJ may have had a sense of entitlement going into the season…..this staff didnt draft him….he has to prove his worth to the new staff…..and whiffing on blocking assignments along with dropping passes aint the best way to prove hes just as valuable to ME13, CG12 or perriman at this point…..

    GO BUCS!!!!!!

  30. JP Says:

    I say shore up the o-line first so that he DOESN’T have to be placed as a blocker and see what his production looks like then. He’s still a hella talented player and wouldn’t cut ties with him just yet but hey, I’m just a guy with an opinion

  31. Joe Says:


    Very fair, and interesting.

  32. LaMarcus Says:

    Easy. Our tackles are blocking the inner dline which in turn blocks the qb vision and leaves the Tight Ends blocking “edge rushers” 1 on 1.

  33. Buccaneer Bonzai Says:

    Everyone wants to blame someone.

    Guess I will too. It isn’t Bruce Arians or Byron Leftwich’s fault. It is because of:

    • Weaknesses in the offensive line
    • No good blocking fullback, so the had to use Howard

    Howard may not have been great at it, but he was still the best option.

  34. Cgmaster27 Says:

    Ou proving jameis derangement syndrom is alive and well. Howard sucks because hes soft and cant catch. Thats got nothing to do with jameis.

  35. JF Says:

    If he was in decline why didnt the bucs answer the phone when Hoodie called?

  36. D-Rome Says:

    Hopefully this isn’t one of those situations where OJ Howard is like Dexter Jackson (the bad one) where he didn’t like contact.

  37. Bucsfanman Says:

    OJ is over-rated, period! The Bucs reached on a LUXURY pick when they were in no position to pick a “luxury” pick. Brate had just come off of one of his best seasons. We had no business drafting this guy to begin with.
    AND, last time I checked aren’t coaches on the sideline? So, explain how it’s the coaches fault if the TE is neither targeted nor thrown to if he’s running routes.
    Then, on top of all that how many drops, whiffs, and blunders did this guy have this year?! But, it’s the coaches fault?! Huh?!
    The guy was picked waaaaaaaaaay too soon in that draft by a team that couldn’t afford to have another 1st round fail.
    It ain’t “misuse”. It’s too high of expectations! He just is not a 1st round talent, not at this point anyway.

  38. catcard202 Says:

    This OFF system is not friendly towards the Modern TE. The way TB uses the TE position, you’d think it was 1960 not 2020….Might as well be OT’s blocking on the edge, since there only seems to be enough balls to go around for WR’s.

    Makes no sense having ~$10M tied up in the position, when a couple low-boy contract practice squad Y-TE’s would suffice.

  39. coverdeuce Says:

    I seem to remember him being a solid blocker when he came into the league. Did he simply forget how? Or was that more reflective of our inconsistent play at tackle? Also, he’s a freak athlete. He’s bigger than ME13, and moves about the same. Imagine being an offensive genius – a QB guru even – and not finding ways to incorporate an erratic QBs best friend effectively into the offense. The offense completed 65% of its passes to TE’s vs ~50% for everyone else not named Godwin or Evans. You can’t tell me an offense struggling to run the ball couldn’t have benefited from efficient short yardage throws to their TE’s. But they didn’t. Some of that might be on Jameis making bad reads, but it’s pretty clear both he and Brate were underutilized last year.

  40. Ata Says:

    There’s no need to feature the TE in the passing game, we have Mike and Chris. Those two play so well, we didn’t know Perriman was a good receiver till Mike went down.

    Oj might wanna play better next season being it’s the final year of his contract. Imo trade OJ and definitely trade/cut Brate. Replace them with an elite blocking TE, or use a 6th OL more often like we did with Watford, hopefully open up play action and more 1on1’s for Mike and Chris. Keep developing Watson and Miller (I think Perriman will cost too much to resign).

  41. lambchop Says:


    So, Perriman is too costly to resign, you want to trade Juice, and cut Brate? You gotta be kidding me. Mike has been shutdown by Lattimore and Bradberry. So, let’s make it simple for defenses to lockdown 2 WRs because we have Watson and Scotty too Hotty to fall back on? Mike and Chris have been injured during the season, so by all means let’s turn the strongest position group into a 2 man show and hope they don’t get injured.


  42. Uncle Says:

    You people who turn every article into Jameis hate are ruining what otherwise would be an interesting topic and discussion.

  43. Pewter power Says:

    Misused ok but he’s not a top right end in the league nor should he be considered one based off potential. He had yet to put up league leading stats but cam brate led the league in touchdowns once upon a time. Howard needs top step up his game stop blaming coaching for dropped passes

  44. Coburn Says:

    A poster on pewter report boards by the name of Nobody, whom I understand was an unnmamed former bucs player, had pointed out that Brate, Howard, and Auclair all played worse this year than previously both in catching and blocking. I think he’s onto something. Whether it’s coaching or just nt being involved enough early and able to get into a rhythm mm.. they block enough but even then they regressed there too

  45. Buccaneer Bonzai Says:

    Just reading the comments here, I see how Bucs fans give up easily on players. These same fans wanted Mike Evans gone after his second year, wanted Vita Vea gone before he eeven played a game, and wanted Rojo gone last off season.

  46. Chesapeake Bucco Says:

    can’t/won’t block, too many drops

  47. Cobraboy Says:


    If you aren’t going to plan for his talents, trade him.

  48. JimmyJack Says:

    First off OJ Howard is overrated by fans based on combine scores.

    Second he has never been a dependable player and wasn’t this year.

    Third I don’t think Bruce trust OJ nor did he ever have a reason too.

    Fourth OJ is awful at blocking. He was touted as being a great blocker in college and that is simply untrue.

    Fifth OJ showed us his true colors against the Texans when Mike and Chris we’re out and we needed him.

    Sixth OJ does not fit with the mentality & attitude on this team. He is just a bad football player.

    Seventh please please please trade this guy.

  49. Defense Rules Says:

    Bonzai … Congrats, you definitely made the most sense in this argument. Our OLine is the real culprit in this equation; well, that and the fact that Jameis really isn’t the most mobile QB in the NFL. ‘Augmentation blocking’ is OJ’s real Job One. That’s a shame IMO, because he’s capable of a LOT more than BA & BL are getting out of him.

    I’d bet though that he won’t be traded. Brate’s not a good blocker, and for $6 mil he’s the more likely of the 2 to be gone. McElroy & Leggett are only other TEs on our 2020 roster at this point, and TOGETHER they got a total of THREE offensive snaps in 2019. Auclair & Hudson are both FAs for now, but will most likely be brought back (for Training Camp at least).

    In any event, OJ’s ‘only’ making $3.5 mil this year (his Dead Cap is the same number) so the Bucs won’t just release him. He’s a FA in 2021 & I doubt the Bucs will exercise any 5th year option to keep him. Also doubt they’ll offer him more than the minimum to stay if all he’s done is block. IMO … he’s been misused & will gladly kiss Tampa Bay goodbye for a chance to prove himself elsewhere.

  50. Wesley Says:

    It’s a shame how misused he is.

  51. Dapostman Says:

    TE is one position where guys pop up all the time to contribute. Brate was one of them. That McElroy caught a 30 yard pass in the first game he played. Some guy Hollister is catching passes from Russell Wilson. Never put cap $$$ or draft capital into the TE position. It’s just too easy to find some contributors for low dollars. Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates both never played in the Super Bowl. Don’t spend on TE’s.

  52. Rodney Munch Says:

    I know from listening to the Fantasy Footballers, who are based in Phoenix and Cardinals fans, they warned all offseason that Arians doesn’t throw to his TE. They did say that OJ is such a better talent than anything they had in Arizona that perhaps that would cause Arians to change, but they warned that OJ wasn’t going to have the same production, it’s just the offense.

    Then OJ went on to single handedly lose the 49ers game. Then later in the Saints game he juggles the ball behind his back leading to a huge INT. Then later he drops that HUGE pass against the Texans. OJ had a terrible year this year and didn’t really provide anything of value – his “big” plays weren’t anything special.

    I don’t know why OJ took a Freeman like plummet in production, certainly part of it was the play calling – but he also looked terrible when he did get the ball.

    You can’t really trade him for anything of value this offseason I don’t think (I’d want at worst a high third rounder) – so I think you just sit still and hope he’s a different guy next year. To replace him you’re then spending a 3rd rounder and rookie TEs generally take at least a year to develop, so to me, that’s a big loss.

    He was an elite TE in Dirk’s offense – and the worst possible thing is to dump him and have him end up in Atlanta where he might put up 1300 yards and 15 TDs, with probably half of those coming against Tampa.

  53. Pelsbuc61 Says:

    Marine Buc is spot on. Even when Bucs did target O.J., he fumbled or caused an int. Trade him in the offseason and restructure Brate.

  54. Buczilla Says:

    Trade this dude and Brate while they still have some worth. Good blocking tight ends can be found in the 4th round and beyond.

  55. Rodney Munch Says:

    You know, I said Brate is certainly gone as he’s making $7m… but OverTheCap has him at only $6m.

    That’s actually not bad money at all. While I still don’t think the Bucs will keep him, it should help his trade value a bit since that’s really affordable for a starting TE. I think Brate should get us perhaps a 4th rounder.

    Same thing with Gholston – he’s $4.75m… for a starting DE, even if he’s not all that good, that’s pretty cheap and he’s still a good run stuffer. I’ve been thinking he’s gone as well, but his salary might just be cheap enough to keep him around – or even possibly trade him for a 6th or 7th. I think other teams will just see a guy who has started for years and doesn’t have a high salary and might be willing to pony up a late pick.

  56. Jeff Says:

    Drugs? Like Freeman?

  57. unbelievable Says:

    “As it turns out, Howard isn’t much of a blocker”

    The problem is, neither are half of our offensive linemen…

  58. unbelievable Says:

    @Bonzai and @Coburn-

    spot on guys.