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The Impressive Impact O.J. Howard Brings To The Bills’ Offense

After a strong college career at Alabama, O.J. Howard never seemed to fit quite in with the team that drafted him. However, he has immense skills and is ready to prove in Buffalo why he was selected in the top 20 in 2017.

Howard Lands in Buffalo

In the same week that Bills’ general manager Brandon Beane went out and acquired Von Miller, Jordan Phillips, and Shaq Lawson, there was another name that he was eyeing and eventually brought to Buffalo, and that name was O.J. Howard, the former Buccaneer backup tight end. With a transparent need at the TE2 position, bringing Howard in to mesh with Dawson Knox and the rest of the pass catchers in Ken Dorsey’s offense could be dynamic. After a free agency meeting with the Bills, Howard made his decision; He would be signing with Buffalo this offseason.

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O.J. At ‘Bama

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Howard played his college ball at Alabama from 2013-2016 and entered the 2017 draft as one of the top tight end prospects on the board. I was one of the people seriously advocating for Beane to draft Howard, however, he was chosen nineteenth overall by Tampa Bay, while Buffalo made their selection eight picks later.

A few years later, and with a much-improved offense and a franchise quarterback at the helm, Beane was glad to snag Howard from Tampa this past offseason. In his four years, he reeled in 114 passes for 1,726 yards and seven scores. In his five seasons with the Bucs, Howard actually has very similar numbers, as he’s made 119 catches for 1,737 yards and 15 touchdowns.

Becoming somewhat more of a red zone threat since joining the league, Howard’s six-foot-six frame will help the Bills tremendously in goal-to-go situations. Additionally, Howard ran a 4.51 at the draft combine, making him one of the speedier players at his position

What The Film Shows

When you break down the film on Howard, you see right away that he is a big target. He runs with quickness and power and is never afraid of lowering his shoulder to try and get a few extra yards. This is great, however, it can be to a fault at times as well. There is a certain play from 2019, where the Bucs had a third and goal from the nineteen, and the proper play was to gain a few yards to make the field goal try a bit easier.

At the time Buccaneer quarterback Jameis Winston fired a quick throw to Howard for about five yards, but instead of going down right away, he wanted to try and make something happen. The issue was, that there were about five San Francisco 49ers ready to make the tackle, and two of them handled O.J., while another knocked the ball free and recovered it, ending the Bucs’ chance at getting any points at all.

So, a bit of a mistake there from Howard, however, it happens. We’ve seen the same thing happen early in Josh Allen’s career where he should’ve slid or thrown the ball away and instead wanted to be the hero and make the unimaginable happen, which usually resulted in an interception or a fumble turnover.

How His Frame Helps Him

Being a bigger guy, weighing in at 250 pounds, Howard doesn’t usually have many problems getting himself open to make a catch. He also forces the defense to match him up with a linebacker, because a safety or slot corner would get out-muscled by him the moment the ball is snapped. Making this assessment useful to the Bills, and forcing a linebacker to be matched up with him means there is one less linebacker rushing Josh Allen.

This of course gives him more time to set up and make a throw unfazed, while Howard is either getting open or simply serving as a decoy so that a receiver finds a blanket in the coverage. As I said, throughout his career, Howard has never had difficulty getting open, which really creates a ton of opportunities for guys like Diggs, Davis, Crowder, and Knox to take advantage of the linebacker assigned to Howard, leaving holes open in the coverage for themselves.

This also makes Allen’s life much easier because instead of before, when Buffalo rarely ran a two tight end set, Knox would be the sole TE, putting all the pressure on him to find himself open. Running two tight ends will allow the offense to flourish and run much more smoothly, and it’s something offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey has been very excited to see come to fruition in the first few weeks.

Howard Will Be Integral To Buffalo’s Success

While Howard will not make a Pro Bowl or get close to an All-Pro vote, he will serve as an integral part of the Bills’ offense and many red zone situations will include him, most likely either going up and making tough touchdown grabs or being a decoy to the defense, clearing room for Allen and company to find the end zone for six. 

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Howard at camp fielding questions from the Buffalo media

Howard said this about his new signal caller when asked about the matchup between his at the time Bucs and Buffalo in Tampa.

“When he came to Tampa and he got banged up, and he came down and finished the game. That’s all I needed to see,” Howard said. “He had an ankle injury, it looked like, and I was like, ‘I think we got it.’ “But that guy pushed through, and I was like, ‘Josh Allen’s a dog.’ “Then I get here and meet him personally, it’s nothing different. When you step on the field with him, he’ll do whatever it takes… When you see that in your quarterback, how can you not go hard for them?”

Howard does a ton of things extremely well and has a strong work ethic and positive mindset to get better. Working with a new offense and players that will make him better, he should undoubtedly find a home in Buffalo, and his impact will be felt early in the season when Dorsey uses the two tight end sets and utilizes both Knox and Howard in passing schemes.



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