O.J. Howard Struggling To Separate

June 17th, 2022

Former Bucs TE O.J. Howard.

It seems former Bucs first round pick O.J. Howard is not exactly dominating so far for his new team, the Bills.

Per Joe Buscaglia of The Athletic, Howard appears to be a shell of himself. The big knock Buscaglia has on Howard is that he can’t shake defenders — in underwear football!

Howard’s movement skills

… Howard has not looked like the dynamic pass catcher he was when he was a first-round pick out of Alabama in 2017. At 6-foot-6 and 250 pounds, he’s enormous and you can’t miss him on the field, and he’s been consistent in his catch opportunities this offseason. He also looks like he can be an excellent blocker for 12 personnel while still offering a pass-catching threat. But his movement skills are well below what Knox brings to the table.

Howard has not been quick in and out of his breaks, which could hamper his ability to deceive the defender and separate while running routes. Part of those difficulties must be from the multiple lower-body injuries Howard has suffered since entering the league. There’s just a difference between what his draft reputation was and what he is as a player now. It’s also fair to wonder whether his separation ability will increase when defenders put pads on because it’s a bit of an equalizer. …

If Howard can’t separate in underwear football, how will he lose guys when the pads come on, much less in games?

Perhaps Buscaglia is correct. Perhaps Howard has yet to recover from his blown Achilles in October of 2020?

As it stands, Howard (aside from his Magic Johnson, behind-the-back-catch-turn interception stunt) likely will be best remembered as a giant tease.

39 Responses to “O.J. Howard Struggling To Separate”

  1. doolnutts Says:

    Achilles injury’s used to be completely career-ending for football players and it sounds like they still are sometimes. I had hoped Howard would be able to overcome the injury but every day, week, and year that passes it sounds like that will not be the case.

  2. Chris Tucker@Apple Roof Cleaning Tampa Says:

    We should never have drafted him!
    I was at a draft day party, and when they called his name, most of us rolled our eyes.
    We really missed out on some good talent, because of him.
    Yes, he is an imposing physical specimen, but his play is anything but imposing

  3. Señor Harry in Costa Rica Says:

    @Chris, yeah, how nice would it be to have TJ Watt on the other side of Shaq?

  4. PassingThru Says:

    It’s the Achilles tear, players permanently lose explosiveness. If the player is an O lineman, for example, it isn’t as big a deal. But if your position and your game relies upon that explosiveness and short area quickness, it can be career altering.

  5. Bucsfanman Says:

    I agree with Chris and have always maintained that he was a “luxury pick” when we had legitimate needs. As a result of his and other first round swings and misses, we set the franchise back.
    Thankfully we hired a good HC in Arians and turned this thing around.

  6. Jeff Says:

    Only pocket passers have a chance of truly recovering from that injury.

  7. pewter941 Says:

    Another wasted draft pick, we should have drafted Dalvin Cooke

  8. Joe Says:

    Another wasted draft pick, we should have drafted Dalvin Cooke

    Absolutely. But you know what? The Bucs got a ring with the same GM that passed on Dalvin Cook and Cook is still waiting to play in a Super Bowl.


  9. SufferingSince76 Says:

    Disappointing career in general. He only had it going somewhat right before the Achilles injury. Good luck to him.

  10. Evolvingbucsfan Says:

    OJ never lived up to expectations, he looked hurt before he was even hurt. He had flashes but not enough of them, it wasn’t even examples of speed or skill that i saw he was schemed open or made an easy catch from what i can remember, it’s been so so long since he’s made a play lol. I do wish him luck though.

  11. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    As I recall……pretty much everybody at the time felt we got a steal with OJ Howard as he dropped to 19…….
    Can’t fault Licht for the pick…..just didn’t turn out well.

  12. Listnfrmafar Says:

    Now that’s hard to believe, NOT!

  13. Lou in srq Says:

    I always felt he would have been best served as a possession wide receiver.
    6’6″” and 250# would be impossible for a cornerback to cover and his 4.5 40 speed would be too much for most linebackers.

  14. PassingThru Says:

    TBBF is correct, OJ was considered by draft experts and draftniks alike as a steal at #19. There was talk of him having the potential of being an annual All Pro, generational talent at TE, yada yada yada. It’s the draft, some guys either by luck, poor work habits, system fit, or exaggerated reputation, never pan out.

    OJ did flash with Brady, and at that point I wondered if OJ was going to have a breakout season. *boom* Achilles injury. The end.

    I mentioned back then that OJ was never going to be the same player again. Draft experts drooled because OJ had excellent quickness and athleticism. That quickness was compromised.

    I also mentioned that OJ might have to take a new route if he was to survive as an NFL TE, and that would be to do something intuitively counterproductive: Gain weight and work harder at being a blocking TE. If he can become a first-rate blocking TE who can haul down an occasional pass, he’ll be able to extend his career. I know it’s not sexy, but he has to aspire to be a better version of Antony Auclair.

    Comparing him to Dawson Knox isn’t fair. Knox is a quality starter; he’s above average as both a blocker and pass-catcher. OJ is not going to become a better receiving option, that chapter is over. But he might be able to stick to a roster by being that second TE on two TE formations.

  15. Goatfarmer Says:

    Too bad for him. His Chargers game was breakout until then.

  16. Goatfarmer Says:

    Too bad for him. It looked like the Chargers game was his breakout until then.

  17. Christos Says:

    I didnt have an issue when we drafted him and even now knowing the result i still dont. Sure we could have drafted Cook but at that moment O.J Howard was a top prospect and i thought it was a good pick. He didnt live to the expectations and he didnt live to his athletic ability, that happens a lot.
    That Magic Johnson moment will never be forgotten for sure Joe

  18. Dooley Says:

    OJ was Lichts’ Mark Barron

  19. Cobraboy Says:

    @Dooley: Barron never got a serious leg injury. Big difference.

    Very sad situation. Howard was looking excellent, a Brady fave, until that injury.

  20. BUC CHEEKS Says:

    OJ whoooo?

  21. Dooley Says:


    Brady fav? Sure Brady talked him up plenty, but he was the #2 TE behind Gronk and TB only played 4 games with Howard before he got hurt. It’s not that big a difference, Howard & Barron both play positions you hardly see drafted as high as either were and both came from the same collegiate program. Also, Barron got traded for like a 4th & 6th rounder, which is terrible considering he was a top 10 pick just over two years before.

  22. Capt.Tim Says:

    I thought that Howard, In a 2 TE set, would be really effective teamed with Brate.
    He always seemed lackadaisical. He loped instead of running.
    And he didnt know the playbook. Numerous times he was in the wrong place. You could watch both Winston and Brady berating him.

    His skills haven’t atrophied. They never materialized.
    Always Potential- never Production

  23. Capt.Tim Says:

    Barron wasnt a horrible player.
    He just wasnt an NFL safety
    He was a Linebacker.
    Bucs kept trying to put the square peg in a round hole

  24. Cobraboy Says:

    @Dooley: my statement stands as true. Brady loved OJ Howard; that does NOT mean he loved Howard more than Gronk. It means Howard was an important part of Brady’s arsenal, the anti-Watson.

    One cannot honestly compare a guy who got badly injured with another guy in a different position, although I do understand your spin effort. It’s what casuals do: spin.

    Besides Rockstar drafted Barron and Licht drafted Howard.

    I won’t speak for Barron (or Rockstar, whom I never really had any faith in his leadership), but when Licht drafted Howard the entire NFL yelled “steal” in unison, including the majority of Buc Fans.

    Whether or not a guy pans out (I’m not a huge draft-impact fan, I think it’s more crap-shoot than skill) is different from if/where a guy is drafted.

    If Howard had not severed his Achilles, we may be singing a different tune. I’m not aware of any injury that can affect a career as much as a ripped Achilles, especially in a tall skilled guy with huge leveraged pressure on that tendon (and I speak of one who suffered just a partial tear.)

  25. Allbuccedup Says:

    Probably won’t make the team.

  26. Buc1987 Says:

    TBBF…I was pretty excited when he fell that far and the Bucs took him.

    Now we know why he fell so far.

    Wonder how much further in the draft he would have slipped….

  27. Dooley Says:

    LMAO @Cobra

    there’s no spin without you adding words to my initial comment and it was really only as deep as two “studs” from Alabama not working out for this franchise. Nice try though, overcomplicating a simple statement with conjecture and hypotheticals considering that in your opinion Howard being a favor of Brady and even with the injuries at TE in 2021 and howard being available EVERY game and only getting targted 21 times in 202. So apparently, some of that had to do with rehabbing the injury falling out of favor with Brady. I wanna cash app you some money so you can go get you a Snickers and cool tf out

  28. Cobraboy Says:

    Cash app me a new ‘Benz, Dooley. I’ll even settle for a classic 300CD turbodiesel.

    Because my opinions are worth it.

    I have no idea what your blabbering about. Howard got hurt in 2020, Brady’s first season as a Buc, targeted fairly often. He was well on his way to a solid season before the Achilles. And, yes, Brady praised him very highly before getting injured. Keep in mind the Bucs picked up his 5th-year option to play with Brady.

    He played with Jameis Christ in 2019, so there’s that. I don’t judge any player based on ATM’s weirdness.

  29. Capt.Tim Says:

    “Brady loved OJ Howard”
    I live for the day, when Someone ask Brady about a Buc Receiver,
    And he responds” That guy Fing sucks!! Slow with hands of stone!”
    But its never gonna happen.
    NFL players are coached on what to say, by the Teams many PR men.
    They NEVER bad mouth a team mate, and every Rookie is a future hall of fame player!!

    Actions spoke louder than words. Howard is GONE. Brate is still here

  30. Dooley Says:


    Most US ‘Benz are just a waste of really good engineering, especially considering you’d probably fuel & drive it like a Chevy Cavalier anyways, so why not just save the coins

    Licht picked his option up because it was cheap, one less hole to fill and we needed him more as another inline blocking TE as well as being a part-time redzone target. Again, Howard tore his Achilles week four of 2020 and was healthy ALL of 2021, yet Cam Brate got double the reps then he did even when Howard was rehabbed & healthy all of 2021.

    OJ had 40 targets & 2 TDs in 21 total games played w/Brady, that’s not exactly Brady going out of the way to feed him the ball out of favoritism. Especially considering how much passing this system leans on. That’s you overexaggerating/embellishing some connection that wasn’t nearly as “favorable” to make an argument about nothing, because Howard isn’t a Buc anymore. So much for that imaginary favoritism

  31. Buczilla Says:

    Good dude and maybe just barely an average football player.

  32. unbelievable Says:

    Never the same after that Achilles.

    And he never lived up to his physical potential either, ALTHOUGH it did seem like he was turning the corner that season before the injury.

    A shame, but that’s why the NFL stands for Not For Long

  33. Destinjohnny Says:

    Roll tide 24/7
    We over drafted him and I said it on draft day

  34. Wade Landry Says:

    So joe, on the same G.M.thing etc…Cook not playing in SB has nothing to do with performance as a player, and Lucht winning one has little to do with his contribution… Tom fing Brady is the reason… ME and CG and BA was the recruiting aspect… TB and BA saved L’s arse……look at W/L record for L b-4 TB. come on joe ……you know….

  35. David Says:

    Got to love the people who look back at drafts years later and scream told you so… 😂. The fact is if they were actually picking they would probably hit on about 5% of their draft picks.

    OJ Howard was supposed to be an absolute stud tight end that everyone thought was a fantastic pick. He didn’t pan out, that does not make it a bad pick at that moment in time.

    My take away from the whole article is how this guy thinks he’ll be a good blocker for them. 😂 😂

  36. destinjohnny Says:

    David not so fast.

    If you watched and re watched every tide game like I do you would have seen a straight line speed guy who was fast as hell but and zero feel for the game.
    any tide fan that pays attention would have told you the sam thing.
    my tide crew thought he was a 3rd round pick

  37. Mike Johnson Says:

    IF the Bills cannot get max performance out of OJ, they will cut him. I fear he was one of those 2 yr flash in the pan guys and gone type receivers.

  38. 74 Bucs Fan Says:

    Blocking is his worst trait. Good luck with all that.

  39. Brandon Says:

    Jeff Says:
    June 17th, 2022 at 9:24 am
    Only pocket passers have a chance of truly recovering from that injury.


    Terrell Suggs and Brent Grimes both had Achilles surgeries and returned to form and earn big contracts AFTER surgery. Thanks for playing.