2017 Player Recap: O.J. Howard

2017 Player Recap: O.J. Howard

Tight end O.J. Howard headlined a stellar 2017 draft class for the Bucs this season after Tampa Bay took him at number 19 out of the University of Alabama with their first pick of the 2017 NFL Draft.

Howard fit right in as an immediate contributor to the tight end corps. It’s a position group Tampa Bay utilizes as pass catchers a lot in comparison to the rest of the league. The Bucs rank third in total yards receiving by a tight end over the course of the 2017 season. They were also the only team last season that had tight ends account for over 400 yards and at least six receiving touchdowns.

Despite being a rookie, Howard played a huge role in that. He tied with the Giants’ Evan Engram for the most touchdowns by a rookie tight end this season with six, doing it in one less game, and second among all rookies in touchdown receptions behind only Pittsburgh’s JuJu Smith-Schuster.

Howard’s season-long touchdown came on his first NFL touchdown in Week 4 against the New York Giants. On first-and-10 at Tampa’s own 42-yard line, quarterback Jameis Winston faked the handoff on play action to hit Howard down the near sideline. The tight end was left wide open and hauled in the grab inside the 35-yard line and ran untouched into the end zone.

The most productive game this season for Howard came in Week 7 when the Buccaneers visited the Buffalo Bills. The tight end was the team’s leading receiver that game and caught six passes for 98 yards, including two touchdowns. In the fourth quarter with the Bucs down 20-13, Winston, faking the handoff again, rolled out to his right, throwing across his body at Howard who was waiting down the far sideline just before the end zone for an easy 33-yard grab that tied the game.

Howard etched himself in the Buccaneers record books this season, as well. He set the Bucs record for most touchdowns by a rookie tight end with six. He now sits at fourth-most receiving touchdowns by any Bucs player in his first season in franchise history. His 16.62 yards-per-catch average ranks second of any player with at least 25 receptions in his first season with the Buccaneers as well.

Howard’s season ended early when he was placed on IR with an ankle injury following Week 15 against Atlanta, missing the last two games of the year. It makes his season totals that much more impressive, considering he had two less games to amass such stats.

Nicknamed “Da Juice,” Howard participated in many of the team’s community efforts, including the Buccaneers Rookie Club, where he went to visit cancer patients at local hospitals throughout the season among other events. Howard also participated in the NFL’s My Cause, My Cleats initiative, wearing cleats with his signature image of an orange as well as the words ‘Got Da Juice’ after his Got Da Juice Foundation.

Howard finished the 2017 season with 26 receptions, 432 yards, six touchdowns, including his 58-yard long, and a 16.62 yards-per-catch average.


Published at Fri, 19 Jan 2018 11:07:35 +0000