TAMPA — Bucs tight end O.J. Howard, who didn’t have a catch in Sunday’s 31-24 road division loss to the Saints until the final minute of the game, admitted Monday that he’s surprised about his diminished role in the Bucs offense.
“A little bit, but it’s just one of those things where you’ve got to stay at it,” said Howard, who had one catch for 10 yards Sunday. “Sometimes we don’t play teams who give us what we thought we were going to get on film. So it’s one of those things where you have to keep going and hopefully you get the good looks.”
Howard was targeted just twice on Sunday. Quarterback Jameis Winston and Howard couldn’t connect on a deep pass on the Bucs’ third offensive play of the day, then Howard didn’t see a ball thrown his way again until his lone completion with 45 seconds remaining in the game.
“It’s just a matter of opportunities,” Bucs coach Bruce Arians said. “He’s going out for passes. It’s just whether he’s getting open.”
Tight end Cameron Brate also had just one catch, for 11 yards.
Howard said the Saints did some things defensively that the Bucs did not expect.
“Yeah, they did,” Howard said. “But that’s part of it. Nobody’s going to keep it vanilla for you the whole time. They’re going to show different looks. They’re going to bring different pressures that you don’t expect. But that’s why sometimes you have plays that are designed to be any coverage or any look you get.”
Howard, who appeared poised for a breakout season, has mostly been a non-factor offensively. The third-year Buc has had more than 33 yards in a game just once — a three-catch, 66-yard game against the Giants in Week 3 — and hasn’t yet found the end zone after making 11 touchdown catches over his first two seasons.
Howard has half as many receiving yards (141) than this time last year (284), while also logging seven fewer targets, four fewer receptions and seeing his yards per catch average drop from 18.9 to 12.8.
Contact Eduardo A. Encina at email@example.com. Follow @EddieInTheYard.