FAB 4. Howard Makes His Presence Felt In Bucs Debut

Tampa Bay rookie tight end O.J. Howard was probably more relaxed in his NFL debut than other first-round picks were around the league. The pressure is on teams to play first-round draft picks right away and shove them into the starting lineup whether they are ready or not.

Howard, who was widely regarded as a Top 10 pick in the NFL Draft, fell to the Bucs at No. 19 and entered the league as one of the few game-ready rookies. In training camp and the preseason the Alabama product quickly showed that he was worthy of starting opposite Cameron Brate in Dirk Koetter’s 12 personnel package, which features two tight ends.

Bucs TE O.J. Howard - Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR
Bucs TE O.J. Howard – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR

With Brate, who caught eight touchdowns last year, Pro Bowl receiver Mike Evans and speedster DeSean Jackson on the field, the pressure isn’t on Howard to come in and produce right away like it might be for other first-round picks.

“Whenever you can have guys on the team that can do the same thing you can it just makes the offense smooth,” Howard said. “We have Cam, we have Mike – everybody. It can make it a lot easier for everybody to get open and not have double coverage.”

Brate, who emerged as one of the NFL’s top receiving tight ends last year, has taken Howard under his wing and gave the rookie some valuable advice before Sunday’s kickoff against Chicago.

“He basically told me it’s just football,” Howard said. “Just do what you’ve been trained to do all offseason. Just do what we’ve done in practice with the plays. At the end of the day it’s just football.”

Howard actually got the start over Brate in the game and played a few more snaps – 46 to Brate’s 38, showcasing the ability to catch the football and be a devastating inline blocker that Bucs scouts saw at Alabama. Howard’s first NFL catch went for 17 yards.

“It was very exciting to play out your dream and be in the NFL,” Howard said. “It was good to get that under my belt and to get a win at home. It felt great. I got a catch, too, so all of that added up.

“As a kid you always dreamed of having an NFL catch and then when you finally do it, it’s like ‘Wow!’ It’s a relief, and then you can go play football.”

Bears LB Danny Trevathan
Bears LB Danny Trevathan

Howard would have had a catch earlier in the game on Tampa Bay’s first offensive play, and perhaps a touchdown if Bears linebacker Danny Trevathan hadn’t broken up Jameis Winston’s pass.

“Yes, it was, but the guy batted it down,” Howard said “That would have been very exciting, too. Yeah, it was there, but I barely missed it.”

Howard would extract some revenge on Trevathan later in the game on Jacquizz Rodgers’ touchdown drive. When the Bucs got inside the Bears’ red zone, Howard pancaked Trevathan to the ground with a vicious block.

Payback time.

“That was great,” Howard said. “Blocking is a big part of the game. You’ve got to be physical for your resume` and for guys around the league to see how you play.”

Koetter was definitely pleased by the play of his new 6-foot-6, 255-pound weapon.

“He did fine for his first game,” Koetter said. “O.J. is going to have a very bright future.”

Bucs TE O.J. Howard - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs TE O.J. Howard – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

With his rookie season off to a solid start Howard has no complaints about life in the NFL even though he may be not be featured as much as some other first-round skill players because of the vast arsenal Winston has at his disposal.

“To me, this is the life,” Howard said. “My opportunities will come. I’m not worried about. In college we didn’t have this much freedom, as far as, you come in, you practice, and you get time off.

“It wasn’t like this in college. You have to go to class, so right now I’m living the life. In college you were there all day and didn’t have as much time to watch film. It’s totally different for me. I’m loving it.”

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Scott Reynolds is in his 24th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his son's Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]
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wnb0395
2 years ago

Scott, another great fab 5. As to part 3 about the ratings. I agree with what you have but I have to add that I believe the athletes not standing for the national has had a major effect on the ratings. Following facebook and twitter I see many posts about how many Americans feel its disrespect to our military forces who are currently serving and have died for this country to not stand and honor them. I get that athletes want to protest and have the right to protest and them not standing is not to disrespect our military forces,… Read more »

BucWild02
2 years ago
Reply to  wnb0395

I am not a fan of hijacking the national anthem for a discussion on race relations or politics or policing, especially at the expense of offending those who have sacrificed and served. Also, football is my entertainment. It’s my getaway from the reality of everyday life. I am a white, middle aged, middle class guy who has served. I am not a racist. Colin Kaepernick is mixed. He is probably wealthy. He is a public figure with a platform, only because he is a part of the NFL. By taking a knee during the national anthem, he has risked his… Read more »

wnb0395
2 years ago
Reply to  BucWild02

I can think of a more effective way. You can do what the Dallas Cowboys did last night. I loved it. They protested before the national anthem, then stood up for the anthem so they didn’t offend anyone, while still holding arms. It was a non offensive protest that also promoted unity. My Grandpa Died serving this country. I never got to meet him. I was raised in a different era with respect. Majority of the kids now days don’t have any respect or morals. I was taught to always stand for the national anthem to honor those who are… Read more »

Iowabucfan
2 years ago

I was just shocked last year that David had no tackles in the Arizona game. I still find it unbelievable. He is too good of player for that to happen. I am definitely glad to see that he is back. My favorite touchdown celebration was Billy “White Shoes” Johnson of the former Houston Oilers. It was unique, yet simple. I also liked Barry Sanders. He get into the end zone, which was often, and just flipped the ball to the referee. He acted like he been there before and it was par for the course. To me, that was more… Read more »

e
e
2 years ago

To chime in on #3, Scott… I would say that Goodell, over his tenure, has turned an institution into a commodity. I think that when you look at the overall arc of the popularity of the game, the NFL has reached, and is now surpassing that profit-pushing saturation point. NFL games don’t feel like they used to back in the day. I believe that when you are watch CFB these days, you get a feeling that those players are fighting for something a little more, even though it’s still a business. I agree that they need to only have one… Read more »

cgmaster27
2 years ago

Great Fab 5. It’s funny as a fan , when a player is so good for so ling, you kind of take them for granted. David is one of those players. We all agree he had a bit of a down year last year, but when you see his career stats so far, that is eye opening. I think he continues and has a big week this week with a pick. I love the f act that the NFL relaxed the rules on scoring celebrations. I love them. Scoring a TD has to be an exhilarating experience, let them enjoy… Read more »

tpeluso
2 years ago

Please, let’s not go down the road of college’s overtime rules. I hate how they take special teams play (save for field goals) out of the game, I hate how they gift the offense a shot at a makeable field goal without doing anything, and I hate how they artificially inflate scores (which you mention, but it’s important when scoring still factors into half of the NFL’s tiebreaker criteria, even if they’re the ones that are the last resort). The NFL’s existing overtime system has produced plenty of exciting and controversial moments, and is not screaming out to be messed… Read more »

Naplesfan
2 years ago
Reply to  tpeluso

The college football playoff system is fine, it’s very entertaining. But I don’t think it works so good for NFL. Better to keep but tweak the existing rule … no team should lose a playoff game just because they lost the coin toss, even if the other team scores a TD. After all, everyone knows that defenses are usually all gassed out at the end of four quarters, so whoever gets the ball first is most likely to win without the other team demonstrating whether it can score a TD too. After one possession and it’s still tied,then whoever scores… Read more »

surferdudes
2 years ago

Could the down ratings have anything to do with the fact millions of people were affected by two massive hurricanes? I know I didn’t have power for five days, and no internet, cable, for 12 days.

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Naplesfan
2 years ago

On making the NFL more entertaining: 1 – too much of a good thing ain’t good … Thursday night football cheapens the product, get rid of it asap 2 – adding more reviewable plays, nope … we spend far too much time watching flags fly, ref’s chin-pulling and staring at video screens, and waiting for the faceless person back in the review booth to issue the Ten Commandments. Speed makes excitment 3 – too many late night games (again, partly “less is more”) … for people who have to get up early the next morning, an 8:30 kickoff results in… Read more »

cobraboy
2 years ago

#6: Stop the political baloney and Social Justice Warriors from alienating fans. As a former player and lifetime fan, the politics and SJW in the NFL the last couple of years just about has me ready to just walk away from it. That, IMO, is the #1 reason the NFL is slipping and unless the NFL draws a line in the sand, will continue its slide. The #’s 1-5 are peripheral problems to the core issue. Thay6 may be irritating, but #6 pi$$e$ me off. I am a football fan to get away from that crap. Why would I tolerate… Read more »

Horse
2 years ago

Next Owner/Player Contract requires both sides to wake up that they might be over pricing their product; younger people have more toys for options than in past decades. Kids aren’t playing football like they use to; therefore the present and future watching market is shrinking; it’s as simple as that. I have never supported individual celebrating when this is a team sport; it’s just not necessary. Just my opinion.

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spartan
2 years ago

The biggest argument against the “we know the risks” is that is not the current players who submit the lawsuits. It’s either those who are now retired and broke or a family member after the fact. Case in point the concussion settlement. Do you honestly think that is going to be the last one?

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XpfcWintergreen
2 years ago

This is an old-timer’s response to what I see as short sighted trends in today’s NFL. This is an open plea to the owners and the NFL brain trust. Eliminate the Thursday night games. Do NOT expand the schedule to more than 16 games. (After all the payers are just human beings. They are not really supermen.) Do not ruin this game. Don’t let greed ruin the product. Find some other CREATIVE way to squeeze out the extra $$ you think you need. Do not follow the lead of what happened to major league baseball. MLB used to be America’s… Read more »

gafikdetail
2 years ago

the NFL has plateaued… it’s as simple as that… has nothing to do with politics or social justice… kids these days are too busy playing in their phones & trying to be social media stars instead of watching or playing football… as profitable as the NFL has been and still is where murders, rapes, domestic violence, racists rants, DUIs, vehicular homicides & dog fighting didn’t make a dent in it’s popularity but a silent protest is it’s death knell? ROFL get the hell out of hear!! Rate this item:Thumb UpThumb DownSubmit Rating00 No votes yet. Please wait...

scubog
2 years ago

The NFL might not be as popular as it was a few years ago, but it’s still one of America’s favorite pastimes. Almost as popular as posting stupid stuff on social media about which the recipients really don’t care. Instead of hitting the LIKE symbol, there should be a pile of bull crap symbol indicating that you don’t give a shit. And that my friends is what has happened to the NFL. Many former fans have become apathetic and no longer have the passion. Too much of a good thing. Back a few years ago most of us football fans… Read more »

Horse
2 years ago
Reply to  scubog

Scubog, we getting older and are more conscious in prioritizing our time. My hat is off to you four still going out there in the hot sun and supporting the Bucs; I myself passed this effort a few years ago. I still love the Bucs and support them.

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spartan
2 years ago

By trying to be everything to everyone, and not being offensive in way, they end up being nothing to no-one.

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drdneast
2 years ago

Scubog, once again I agree with many things on your list, but the Vikings horn? Come on, I hate it when it’s blowing against us, but during the rest of the games I love it and I have even heard some players say they love it as well. So I’m going to quit watching NFL games because a washed up QB and Michael Bennett, who I respect as both a player and a person, decide to sit down during the National Anthem. Why” They don’t even play for the Bucs. What do I care what they are doing in San… Read more »