Tom Brady has a large number of offensive weapons at his disposal.
Between Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown, Rob Gronkowski, Cameron Brate, and a Leonard Fournette/Ronald Jones-led running back room, it’s safe to assume Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will once again have an elite offense in 2021. This long list of strong pass-catchers is a major reason Brady recorded 4,600-plus passing yards for the first time since 2015 last year.
Covering all of these elite pieces is going to be an absolute nightmare for opposing defenses. However, there’s another lesser-talked about player who Brady envisions big things for in 2021.
Tom Brady claims tight end O.J. Howard is due for a big season
Before the 2020 season, tight end O.J. Howard was viewed as an ascending piece for the Buccaneers.
He recorded 400-plus receiving yards in each of his first three seasons, setting a career-high in targets in 2019 (53). Of course, these years were with Jameis Winston at quarterback, but the expectation was that he’d still end up becoming a go-to target for Brady. The former New England Patriot has always enjoyed getting his tight ends the football.
However, Howard suffered an Achilles injury just four games into the regular season, eliminating his chances of developing an on-field rapport with his new QB. On top of that, the Bucs also brought in Brady-favorite Gronkowski at tight end, making Howard an afterthought during the few games he did play.
With all of that said, Brady is still confident that Howard can be a key piece for the Bucs’ offense in 2021:
“O.J. has worked really hard to put himself in the position he is in,” Brady said Tuesday, per the team’s official transcript. “I think he’s prepared to have a great season. He has worked really hard through training camp, been available to the team — [he’s] a very hard worker and doing all the right things. [I’m] really happy to have him back out there.”Tom Brady via NFL.com
O.J. Howard is looking forward to rejoining his teammates
After failing to participate in the team’s Super Bowl run last year, Howard is simply happy to be healthy and available for the Bucs’ Week 1 matchup against the Dallas Cowboys.
Achilles injuries can be nasty. They have kept players out for well over a year in the past. Howard getting his body into playing shape to start the season is a testament to the hard work he’s put in over the offseason and during his rehab.
He wants to be out there real bad.
Tom Brady and the Buccaneers have elite depth on offense
Howard is a former first-round pick who was once viewed as a starting-caliber tight end for Tampa Bay. He’s currently the Bucs’ third/second-string TE and Brady’s fifth or sixth option in general.
That’s some serious depth.
Brady is a master of spreading the ball around and getting everyone involved. Even if he’s lower on the depth chart than he would prefer, Howard will still see a good number of targets in 2021. It’s also possible the Bucs look to utilize Howard over Gronkowski during the regular season with “Gronk” beginning to get up there in age.
Either way, Howard returning to the Bucs’ offense is a major win for Brady. It’s just one more pass-catcher for him to throw touchdowns to.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference.