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Bucs TE O.J. Howard motivated to improve on rookie season

First-round pick had six touchdown catches but still sees specific areas where he can improve in 2018.
Bucs rookie O.J. Howard celebrates a touchdown at Miami, one of six he scored this season.
Bucs rookie O.J. Howard celebrates a touchdown at Miami, one of six he scored this season. (LOREN ELLIOTT | TIMES)
Published Dec. 28, 2017|Updated Dec. 28, 2017

O.J. Howard's rookie season ended two weeks earlier than he wanted due to an ankle injury, but the first-round pick from Alabama said he's pleased with the progress he was able to make in his first year with the Bucs.

"I learned so much," said Howard, who suffered a high ankle sprain on a touchdown catch against Atlanta two weeks ago. "I think every game, I improved. My biggest takeaway was not to make the same mistakes twice. If I learned something the week before, try not to let it happen again."

Howard said he sees areas where he can clearly improve for next season — his run-blocking and route-running, for instance. But he finished with six touchdown catches, tied for the team lead and the most among all NFL rookies, and that exceeded his personal expectations for this first season.

"Absolutely. I could have never imagined that coming into the season," Howard said. "It's a good feeling you get when you score touchdowns. I only scored seven total my whole college career, so to have six my rookie year, it says a lot about our offense and how it's so tight-end-friendly and what it can really be."

Much like Jameis Winston, Howard had to adjust from a much different environment in college, where Alabama lost only four games in his three seasons of playing for the Crimson Tide. After seeing the Bucs struggle to a 4-11 record, he said it's motivating to get back to the success he's known.

"Very motivating," Howard said. "I always talk about it all the time: When you win a lot, you get used to it. You get infected with it. I love to win and I hate losing more than I like to win. That feeling is pretty bad. I don't want to get comfortable being on the bottom. The mindset is always to be on top."


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