Tampa Bay’s offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich was short and sweet on Thursday – with most of the questions revolving around the lack of production from tight end O.J. Howard –when he stepped up to the podium before the Bucs headed to London for their Week 6 matchup with the Carolina Panthers.
“[Howard’s time] is coming,” Leftwich said. “It’ll come within this system and it’ll happen naturally. We want it to happen organically and I just have to continue putting him in position to make plays. I’ll do a better job of putting him in different positions so he can make more plays but we want it to happen organically. We’re always trying to put every guy in position so we won’t anything more or less. I think it’ll happen as the offense evolves and we get a better understanding of what we’re trying to do week in and week out.”
The Bucs’ first-round pick in 2017 was able to haul in four of his five targets in Week 1, but his lone drop went into the hands of a defender for an interception and he also fumbled a third-down pass in the red zone, turning possession over to San Francisco.
Over the past four weeks he’s been held to just seven catches for 109 yards, including a catchless performance against the Panthers the last time the two teams played in Week 2. While he’s been utilized far more than fans would like offensively, he’s been on the field for at least 75 percent of the team’s offensive plays each week due to his blocking ability.
“It gets tough sometimes when you’re playing with Chris [Godwin] and Mike [Evans], right?” Leftwich said. “I want the ball to always go where it’s supposed to go organically. I don’t want Jameis [Winston] to get into this thing where he’s forcing balls here and there, I’ll just do a better job, from a design standpoint, to put these guys in better positions.”
Leftwich was also asked about Evans, who was held to without a catch against New Orleans this past weekend. The first-year play-caller talked about what the Saints did to keep him under control.
“We’ve just got to combat what they did,” Leftwich said. “They just said hey, we’re going to double him wherever he’s at on the field and I can do a better job there also. He’s too good of a football player to go through a football game without a catch to be honest with you but we’ll be better. We’ll be better in all phases of our game.”