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Buccaneers OJ Howard ready to be elite?

Florida Football Insiders

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Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Former Buccaneers first round pick, tight end O.J. Howard, has a lot of potential. However, off an injury that ended his second 2018 season early, he also still has much to prove. And, at least one national outlet believes that he is about to do so.

On Friday, the guys at Pro Football Focus, put out a video touting several young NFL stars potentially on the cusp becoming elite. Here’s more about whom they were looking at, including Howard:

Even though PFF’s Steve Palazzolo and Sam Monson began talking about Steelers recevier, JuJu Smith-Schuster, they quickly turned to the Tampa Bay former star from Alabama. While conceding that Howard’s numbers his first two years aren’t great, Monson had this take:

“If you look a little deeper…the per reception, the per route numbers, they look a helluva lot better. Last year in terms of yards per route run, he was second, only behind (49ers TE) George Kittle…. Now coupling that with (new coach) Brian Arians and this sort of deep volume passing attack, things are set for him to explode in 2019.”

Last November the Bucs placed second-year tight end Howard on injured reserve with foot and ankle injuries suffered in a loss to the Giants. Howard was injured on a tackle after making a catch in the fourth quarter, which ended his day, and ultimately, ended his second season. A season in which, he had been blossoming into one of the best pass-catching tight ends in the NFL.

Howard has 34 catches for 565 yards (16.6 avg) and five touchdowns last year. His yards per catch ranked first for tight ends and the five TDs had him third among tight ends in that catetgory at the time he was lost for the season.

As Monson said in the video, the Bucs are expected to use much more of a vertical passing game under Arians and new offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich, and Howard with his 6’6 250 lbs. frame could become a great downfield target.

The Bucs have several larger targets, with Howard’s fellow tight end Cam Brate and Pro Bowl receiver, Mike Evans, both of whom are over 6’4 and all will be favorites of quarterback Jameis Winston.

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