The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a couple of very good tight ends: Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard. In fact, one of those tight ends is apparently the best “pure red zone inside vertical tight end in football”, according to The MMQB’s Andy Benoit.
#Bucs Cameron Brate is the best pure red zone inside vertical tight end in football.— Andy Benoit (@Andy_Benoit) December 6, 2017
That’s ehm....very specific there, Andy. Basically: Cameron Brate is good at catching touchdowns down the middle of the field. Sounds about right.
Interestingly, though, Brate is slightly less productive this season than he was last year—he went from 44 yards per game to 40 and is on track to catch just as many touchdowns. That’s probably down in part to Ryan Fitzpatrick and Jameis Winston’s injury limiting him, but in part it’s just a consquence of his playing time: he’s only on the field for 55% of the offensive snaps. Last year, that was 62%.
O.J. Howard has taken up most of the extra snaps, as he’s on the field for 66% of the time this season. That’s a lot of snaps for a rookie, though most of that is due to his blocking prowess: the Bucs like running the ball and using tight ends to block on those plays, and Howard has proven to be pretty good at that—good enough for the Bucs to simply cut Luke Stocker during the season. And Howard has been decently productive as a receiver, too: 348 receiving yards and four touchdowns. Pretty decent.
Most teams would do a lot to have two tight ends like this: a specialist receiving threat, and a run-blocker who’s also a receiving threat, albeit less of one. The Bucs offense, though, hasn’t been able to exploit defenses much with these two players—some, but it’s not a mainstay of the offense. Not yet. Hopefully, the future will change that.