Arians: O.J. Howard 'can play a heck of a lot better'

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Through two games in Tampa Bay, Jameis Winston's playmakers have emerged.

Chris Godwin leads the Buccaneers with 11 receptions and 15 targets. Mike Evans is right there behind him. Peyton Barber and Ronald Jones have split the running reps with Barber more the bell cow.

Notably absent from the conversation surrounding Tampa Bay's offensive attack is third-year tight end O.J. Howard. With five targets and four receptions for 32 yards to his name through less than two weeks, Howard has fewer targets than Breshad Perriman and fewer catches than Dare Ogunbowale. In Thursday night's win over the Carolina Panthers, Howard saw nary a target, despite playing on 54 of 59 offensive snaps.

Asked why the potential breakout candidate has yet to break out in 2019, Bucs coach Bruce Arians told reporters to ask Howard.

"You'd probably have to ask him," Arians said. "He's got so much talent and he can play a heck of a lot better than he's playing."

Arians added that Howard's lack of targets was not a product of his injured ankle, saying, "That's just the way the game goes."

Howard's disappearance Thursday night was surprising given his role was supposed to expand this year, with Desean Jackson and Adam Humphries out of the building in Tampa Bay. In 2018, Howard was sixth on the Bucs in targets and receptions; he is currently sixth in targets and fourth in receptions this season.

Adding to his lack of production or involvement were two errors in Tampa Bay's Week 1 loss to San Francisco. In the second quarter, Howard first fumbled in 49ers territory and then tipped a Winston pass that led to an interception.

Overall, Howard's start to the season is not what anyone in the organization has wanted. Thankfully for the young tight end, it's early on in a long campaign. The targets will come. The question is what will Howard do with them?

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