It's been a while in the making, but former Alabama tight end O.J. Howard is beginning to look again like the player who first-round selection, No. 19 in the 2017 NFL Draft, by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
During last Thursday's win in Philadelphia, Howard caught six passes on seven targets for 49 yards and a touchdown. All of those numbers were single-game highs for him this season.
It was about this time last year that Howard suffered an Achilles injury against the Chargers. While he was just beginning to get familiar with Tampa Bay's new quarterback Tom Brady, he had 11 catches for 146 yards and two touchdowns.
Instead, it was Rob Gronkowski who went on to have another productive season and played a big part in the Buccaneers winning the Super Bowl.
"He was scratching the surface [in 2020], I mean he was really coming on like gangbusters last year and then he got hurt," Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians told Buccaneers writers. "And that's a hard injury to get over. It's a 12-month job.
"He's doing a heck of a job right now."
Howard saw limited action the first three games of the season, playing just 31 snaps, but when Gronkowski suffered fractured ribs the former Crimson Tide standout was in for 51 snaps against the Patriots during the first weekend of October.
You may have noticed, when Howard scored his first touchdown of the season, he spiked the ball so hard it bounced into the Philadelphia stands.
"Just to be able to build on it," said Howard, per Buccaneers.com. "That's what it comes down to in the NFL. I've been here five years now – it's one of those things, you can never get too high or too low. Just stay in between. It's going to be an opportunity to make plays again and just do the routine things. Once I do those things, all of the other stuff will come. Just make the routine plays."
Game of the Week
The schedule makers didn't do the Titans any favors when they schedule them to face the Bills on Monday Night Football followed by the Chiefs this Sunday. Buffalo and Kansas City might be Tennessee's toughest competition in the AFC this season, although Baltimore and the Los Angeles Chargers might have something to say about that (Las Vegas as well, but who knows what might happen with the Raiders after the whole Jon Gruden scandal). Derrick Henry averaged 7.2 yards per carry (20 attempts, 143 yards) and ran for three touchdowns in the Titans’ victory last week. The player who may be the key to at least slowing down Henry is defensive lineman Jarran Reed, especially with Chris Jones dealing with a wrist injury
NFL Week 8 Schedule
There's a limited schedule this week with Buffalo, Dallas, Jacksonville, Los Angeles Chargers, Minnesota and Pittsburgh all enjoying their bye.
(All times CT)
Denver at Cleveland, Fox/NFLN/Amazon, 7:20 p.m.
Cincinnati at Baltimore, CBS, noon
Washington at Green Bay, Fox, noon
Atlanta at Miami, Fox, noon
New York Jets at New England, CBS, 1 noon
Carolina at New York Giants, Fox, noon
Kansas City at Tennessee, CBS, noon
Detroit at Los Angeles Rams, Fox, 3:05 p.m.
Philadelphia at Las Vegas, Fox, 3:05 p.m.
Houston at Arizona, CBS, 3:25 p.m.
Chicago at Tampa Bay, CBS, 3:25 p.m.
Indianapolis at San Francisco, NBC, 7:20 p.m.
New Orleans at Seattle, ESPN, 7:15 p.m.
• With his 10 catches last week, for a second-high 70 yards and two touchdowns last week, Dolphins wide receiver Jaylen Waddle leads all rookies with 37 catches. He's also the only one with 10-plus catches in two games this season. Meanwhile, DeVonta Smith of the Eagles is second in receptions with 27, and second in receiving yards with 345.
• Falcons receiver Calvin Ridley has had at least five receptions in 12 consecutive games.
• Patriots running back Damien Harris notched 101 rushing yards and a touchdown last week, it was his fifth 100-yard game of his career.
• Finally, going back to Howard ...
This report will be continually updated as necessary, and through the final game on the schedule