O.J. Howard A Sleeper?

July 21st, 2021

Target numbers.

Joe tends to forget about tight end O.J. Howard for a few reasons.

One reason is his impact on the Bucs offense has been limited at best. For every eye-popping, NFL Network-fist-pumping highlight, he’s made a play you want to forget (like his behind-the-back dribble near the goal line that led to a fumble).

Unfortunately for Bucs fans, Howard is as much remembered for a play he made at a Rays game as for any on the field for the Bucs.

Besides, the Bucs made the playoffs and won a Super Bowl with Howard sidelined after Achilles surgery.

Reading the Football Outsiders 2021 Almanac, Joe came across a very interesting Howard stat.

Before his injury, Howard was developing quite the chemistry with Tom Brady, catching 11 of 19 targets for a pair of touchdowns.

This caught Joe’s attention and Joe quickly went to Pro Football Reference and noticed Howard’s 19 targets in his first four games of a season was the most of his career.  Not even the guy who all but ordered Bucs AC/DC-loving general manager Jason Licht to draft him, Dirk Koetter, ever targeted Howard that much.

Now Joe is not one to treat an Achilles injury like a hamstring. This is a serious injury. Not that long ago, an Achilles all but ruined a guy’s career.

Howard was unable to fully practice during underwear football season. So who knows if he will be full-go in a few days when training camp begins.

The number of targets Howard had last year very much has Joe’s interest piqued. Just a hunch, if Brady didn’t trust him or have faith him in, he wouldn’t have thrown him the ball that often.

28 Responses to “O.J. Howard A Sleeper?”

  1. Buczilla Says:

    Nearly a bust, but who knows? I’d be pleasantly surprised if he stays healthy and just becomes average.

  2. Bruce Blahak Says:

    Nothing like those sleepers! Sleepy Tom, Sleepy Joe…winners!

  3. Pickgrin Says:

    Since he couldn’t do it in 4 – the 5th year is likely OJ’s last chance with the Bucs to step up and show why so many considered him a “generational” TE prospect.

    He was fairly universally rated by draftniks in the top 10 of all players available in that 2017 draft. A few even had him as a top 5 prospect.

    Unfortunately, for whatever reason, Howard has never been able to put it all together and have a “break out” season yet.

    Injuries played a big part in that. Every time you start to get excited about what OJ is showing on the field – he gets injured and is out for the rest of the year….

    Now that the 4 years of his rookie deal is basically squandered as far as the Bucs are concerned – its time for #80 to show that he can stay healthy for 17+ games and put up the #s that are expected from a 1st rd pick if he wants to remain a Buccaneer and/or receive a good contract offer next year.

  4. teacherman777 Says:

    Howard is soft.

    Bruce said, “if you block me, I will throw you the ball.”

    It’s also why Cam saw limited snaps until Tom took charge.

    I hope they just let Tom call all the plays this year.

    He’s the smartest QB of all time.

    He knows situational football from his time in NE.

    If Tom is calling the plays, he will start to utilize OJ up the seam more.

    OJ can outsprint any LB and most safeties.

    OJ over the top! Like Tom used to do with Gronk in NE.

    Best TE room I’ve ever seen. Auclair and Hudson are cool too.

  5. Medicated Pete Says:

    All of Tampa was doing the Snoopy Dance while hearing the peanuts song/piano playing in our heads bcuz we STOLE O.J. and now he’s auditioning for the entire league again 5yrs later b/c he’s still a “Prospect”

  6. based weeb Says:

    Brady loves O.J. When he got hurt Brady made a post saying something along the lines of next year you’ll continue to grow and dominate. If that means anything in the grand scheme of the bucs? I’ll let you decide

  7. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    If Brady likes him TBBF likes him.

  8. SB~LV Says:

    Achilles is a MFer to overcome, good thing he was fast before, hopefully he has not lost too much and can adapt his game to his new limitations

  9. Infomeplease Says:

    I don’t know if he is on it or not, but OJ needs to be on the TB12 program!!!! He is hurt every year!!! Physically, he is doing something wrong!! Try doing something different. OJ has the skill set to be along the elite TEs and the QB to make that happen, but if you’re not dressing on game day what good are you to the team. Just sayin! GO BUCS!!

  10. Wild Bill Says:

    Looks ain’t everything. He may look like a Kentucky Derby winner but he can’t seem to finish a race (season). Physical and mental toughness are just as important as speed and size. I wish him the best but 4 less than stellar seasons are hard to ignore.

  11. Beeej Says:

    A least he’ll probably learn to block before Gronk retires

  12. sgrd0q Says:

    It is mostly about knowing your limits and not pushing past them. The problem is that ligaments and bones don’t get stinger as the muscles get stronger. So you need to learn how far you can push without breaking something. TE are particularly prone to injury because they tend to be big and sting and at the same time are required to be fast.

  13. Bobby M. Says:

    Brady is exceptional at positioning players for maximum mismatches….and Howard is vastly more athletic then those attempting to cover him.

  14. DavidBigBucFan99 Says:

    OJ’s been sleeping for 8 months now, but unfortunately being brittle he will never realize his potential. The right hit the right tackle and something else will break. Not much chance how he’ll get any better after this latest injury that tendon is very important in all aspects of football. He’ll get injured some how this year his body isn’t built for football.

  15. SB~LV Says:

    There are reasons Saban didn’t use his gifted physical talent in the pass catching game at Alabama

  16. SOEbuc Says:

    Nothing wrong with him being a #3 TE, if that is what he is considered at the moment. Gronk framed TE with speed and hands. Who better is there for him to be learning from. If he can stay relatively healthy this year, he will take over when Gronk leaves (assuming one to two years). If he takes another major injury, he’s gone.

    Forget about Evans,Godwin, and AB. Our TE could be lethal in the red zone.

  17. Hodad Says:

    All the talent in the world. The only thing stopping O.J. has been injuries. He’s been a bust only because he can’t stay healthy. I hope the young man can finally make it through a season, if not he won’t be back next year.

  18. SlyPirate Says:

    ASJ v2.

    Looks like Tarzan. Plays like Jane.

    “Fragile.” He must be Italian.

    He’ll be a Jet next year.

  19. SOEbuc Says:

    I love when people say players are soft they get their legs bent back 180 degrees backward.


    I’d say he’s an excellent “Sleeper” — anyone asleep on the bench has done about as much as O.J. the past two sessons….

  21. Duane Says:

    Consistently inconsistent his entire football career. Not a bust, but a guy that never comes close to reaching his potential. Pretty much the epitome of the players we had during the lost decade. All that size and strength, and how many games has he missed for us? Looking forward to not worrying about his unreached potential next season.

  22. Bucsfanman Says:

    IF he contributes, it’s all gravy. I have zero expectations for all the reasons listed above.

    Bruce Blahak- “sleepers”! LOL! Well done!

  23. dmatt Says:

    I’m still not sold on OJ. What has he (not potentially) done for us lately? He may have the physique of an ultimate warrior, but his performance is not up to par. Where’s the beast in him? Can u imagine Devin White playing rb or tightend? Remember the beast in him during the fumble recovers in the playoffs against New Orleans and Green Bay, respectively. Now if OJ could play at that level, then he’ll be more than “OJ”, he’ll be really, really “OK”

  24. Stu Says:

    11 of 19? Catch the damn ball…

  25. Trey Long Says:

    Hes got to learn how to stay healthy, period.

  26. Eddie Marz Says:

    I like OJ. Think his upside is great. Maybe with all their receiving talent they can bring him along. Would very much want to see him be productive. Look at Miller, didn’t make a lot of catches, but made very important ones. GO BUCS!

  27. Bush's Coke Spoon Says:

    “Before his injury, Howard was developing quite the chemistry with Tom Brady, catching 11 of 19 targets for a pair of touchdowns.”

    Nothing elite about a 58% catch percentage.

  28. Joe Says:

    Nothing elite about a 58% catch percentage.

    Gotta be careful with that stat. A target doesn’t necessarily mean a catchable ball.