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Buccaneers OJ Howard ready to be elite?

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
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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.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Brees out with thumb injury for Bucs and Jaguars games

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The expected bad news on Saints quarterback Drew Brees’ injured thumb has come on Monday. And, it means the New Orleans quarterback will miss upcoming October games with the Bucs and the Jaguars.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Monday morning that Brees will be sidelined up to 6 weeks with the injured ligament in the thumb on his throwing hand:

Brees was injured in the second quarter of Sunday’s 30 – 9 loss to the L.A. Rams at the Coliseum in Los Angeles. He was shown on the sideline with his thumb in a splint (above), as the game worn on and did not return to action.

Brees, who will be a certain first-ballot Hall-of-Famer and who led the Saints to their only Super Bowl appearance/win in franchise history in 2009, has been one of the 2-3 top quarterbacks in the NFL for over a decade. Brees, in his 19th season, currently has the NFL’s all time record for completions and passing yards that he accomplished a year ago. He has a staggering 115 games with 300 or more passing yards and another remarkable 12 straight seasons with 4,000 passing yards that is now in jeopardy with the injured thumb.

The Saints will now turn to veteran back up Teddy Bridgewater who filled in Sunday but did not have much success against the stout Rams defense in the loss. Bridgewater, the former Vikings QB, was 17-30 for 165 yards, as New Orleans never found the endzone in the game.

The Sains also have young third QB Taysom Hill, and he’s also been used as a receiver and a special teams ace by New Orleans.

The Bucs, who were winners Thursday night at Carolina, will travel to play the Saints at the Superdome on October 6th in the first of their two NFC South meetings. The following week, New Orleans will be at TIAA Bank Field to take on the Jaguars in their first appearance in North Florida in eight years.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs defense dramatic stand saved night in Charlotte

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

So much has been made of first-year Bucs coach Bruce Arians’ offensive mindset, starting quarterback Jameis Winston’s arm talent and the weapons around them carrying the team, but Thursday night it was the Buccaneers defense that showed up big, as in the end, with the game on the line in the final two minutes, they save the day with a fourth-down heroic play.

Former first-round pick , DB Vernon Hargreaves, came up with a key one-on-one tackle on Carolina star RB Christian McCaffrey (above) on fourth down at the Tampa Bay one-yard line to keep the Panthers from getting a first down.  And, it gave the Bucs the ball back to run out the clock and secure a much needed 20 – 14 win.

Hargreaves’ individual effort epitomized the Buccaneers solid defensive play all night in Charlotte, as they did not allow Carolina to score a touchdown and held them to only three points on offense the entire second half. .

As for the aforementioned Winston and his support on the other side of the ball, they supplied enough, including Peyton Barber running tough for 82 yards on 23 carries and a crucial third-quarter 16 yard touchdown run the gave Tampa Bay the lead for good at 17 – 12.

Winston finished 16-25 for 208 yards, including a first-half touchdown pass to third year receiver Chris Godwin. Godwin is quickly becoming Winston’s new favorite target, as he hauled in eight catches for 121 yards and the score.

Meanwhile, Panthers Pro Bowl quarterback Cam Newton had an off game, as well. Even though he threw for 300 yards, he still had 26 incompletions on 50 attempts and Carolina repeatedly had one drive after another fizzle out in Bucs territory.

Newton was also battered by Tampa Bay’s rush, as new DE Shaq Barrett had three sacks, and the Bucs front seven repeatedly hit and knocked him down. Another key moment came near midfield in the third, when Newton was stripped of the ball for a lost fumble. And, another new Buc, defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, fell on it.

And, to top it all off, McCaffery could mount very little offense Thursday night, either. A week after amassing over 200 yards from scrimmage against the Rams, he was held to 16 carries for only 37 yards and just two catches for just more 16 yards.

As for the key stop of McCaffery to preserve victory, Hargreaves said after the game late Thursday,

“It looked like it was going to be the Philly special from the Super Bowl. A reverse pass. When Cam walked up to the line of scrimmage, that’s what I thought it was going to be. As the play developed, McCaffrey faked it and he came right to me. I just stayed at home and he came right to me. I just had to make the play.”

A play that has Tampa Bay sitting 1-1 after a tough divisional win.

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