Tight ends Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard each had a pair of receptions in Sunday’s 37-26 loss to Carolina. Bucs coach Bruce Arians said their role in the offense was a product of the Carolina defense.
“(The Panthers) were double-teaming outside a lot,” Arians said. “So the middle of the field was open.”
Brate hauled in two receptions for season-high 47 yards and a touchdown. Howard’s two catches went for 35 yards, continuing his lackluster 2019 campaign after posting career bests in yards and receptions in 2018.
“Cam made a nice play on the touchdown and the other over route,” Arians said. “O.J. had more opportunities. He dropped a couple.”
Howard played 60 snaps while Brate appeared in 30 of the Bucs’ 80 offensive plays Sunday. Both tight ends finished the day with four targets.
While Arians said “they were a big part of the game plan,” the tight ends still saw significantly less action than the wide receivers. Quarterback Jameis Winston targeted Mike Evans 17 times, Chris Godwin 12 times and Scotty Miller seven times.
Winston is fresh off a six-turnover performance on Sunday, but Arians is still confident in his quarterback after six games.
“I think as we continue to grow together, I think that we’ll get better,” Arians said of Winston. "And these games will be one in a million, you know, not one every five.”
Five years in, is there still room for Winston to grow?
The Bucs selected Winston with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 draft, taking the former Florida State signal-caller over Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota. The Tennessee Titans subsequently selected Mariota with the second overall pick.
Winston is now 23-37 as a starter in Tampa Bay. Tennessee benched Mariota for former Dolphins starter Ryan Tannehill on Sunday. As the Bucs prepare to take on the Titans after the bye week, the 2015 NFL draft is looking like a bust for quarterbacks.
Could the Bucs have taken someone else at No. 1 overall?
Mariota is not an upgrade, and he was the only other signal-caller worthy of the top pick. Garrett Grayson, the next quarterback selected, didn’t come off the board until the third round and is now out of the league. Only seven quarterbacks were drafted in 2015, the lowest total in the Super Bowl era.
Tampa Bay could have looked elsewhere, using the top pick to fill another need. Of the top five picks from 2015, who has played up to the hype?
University of Florida linebacker Dante Fowler Jr. went third overall to the Jaguars and was part of a strong defense that led Jacksonville to the AFC title game for the 2017 season, but he has since been traded to the Rams and has not been a full-time starter until this season.
Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper went fourth overall and put together three 1,000-yard seasons in his first four years. With 515 yards through six games in 2019, the receiver is now on pace for his best season ever. Iowa offensive lineman Brandon Scherff went to Washington with the fifth overall pick, and he already has two Pro-Bowl selections through his first four seasons.
Other notable picks from the otherwise uninspiring draft class include Todd Gurley (10th overall) and Melvin Gordon (14th overall), a pair of Pro-Bowl running backs.
Linebacker Jack Cichy, injured his elbow injury on a kickoff against the Rams on Sept. 29, said his arm is getting better, but he will remain in Tampa over the bye week to continue his rehab.
“Trying to get the arm back normal,” Cichy said. “(I will) be here, come in and do some treatment on it.”
Arians initially said Cichy would miss between two and four weeks. That timeline puts him on schedule to return against Tennessee after the bye week.