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Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians believes O.J. Howard can play ‘a lot better’

Bruce Arians, Buccaneers, OJ Howard

Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end O.J. Howard was supposed to blow up in 2019, yet, through two games the inverse has happened. Against the Carolina Panthers on Thursday night, Howard caught nothing. The game before, against the San Francisco 49ers: four for 32 yards, and a fumble.

When asked why things haven’t clicked for the third-year tight end, Bucs head coach Bruce Arians responded on Friday, saying, via Greg Auman of The Athletic:

“You’d probably have to ask him. He has so much talent. He can play a heck of a lot better than he’s playing.”

Howard’s demise from the potentially elite tight end — following a 34 reception for 565 yards and five touchdowns 2018 campaign — to one minimally used in Tampa Bay is puzzling, but perhaps shouldn’t be.

Arians offense has never been one to feature tight ends at a great extent. Whether it was his time with Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, or Phoenix, the coach has preferred the usage of speedy slot receivers to break down offenses; hence, Chris Godwin’s recent ascension.

While Arians will utilize athletic tight ends such as Howard, it’s minimal compared to other schemes. Historically, an Arians offense will use a tight end more often in the red zone to create mismatches. Big wide receivers, such as Mike Evans, get usage as deep ball threats; however, Evans’ poor start to the season could be attributed to his sickness rather than scheme.

However, Howard’s slow start isn’t schematic, according to Arians. He needs to play better than he has, at least, that’s what the coach says.