Who is the most impactful newcomer to the NFC South? ESPN’s NFC South writers answered that question, and two of the four chose a Tampa Bay Buccaneers player, while a third thought O.J. Howard was a close contender.
Jenna Laine went with DeSean Jackson, which is a pretty fair choice. After all: he’s one of the fastest players in the NFL, adding a new dimension to the team, and he’s a veteran who’s shown repeatedly that he’ll make an impact wherever he plays.
I’m not as convinced that DeSean Jackson will be the most impactful newcomer in the NFC South this year. Oh, sure, he’ll be very very relevant—but so will other players. Most notably: O.J. Howard.
Jackson adds speed and a bit of a new dimension to the Bucs’ offense, and that’s very valuable. But it’s not like Mike Evans is particularly slow—and it remains to be seen whether Jameis Winston can fix his deep ball to really take advantage of Jackson.
Howard, though, brings something new to the Bucs offense that impacts their entire scheme: a tight end who can both block and threaten the deep middle of the field. That gives Dirk Koetter tremendous schematic versatility, and the ability to create more room within the offense elsewhere.
Of course, there’s one problem here: O.J. Howard is a rookie, and rookie tight ends tend not to make massive impacts. Even Rob Gronkowski wasn’t that great as a rookie. That’s the only really good argument I know against Howard’s potential rookie impact. If he can adjust quickly, though—and early signs are he’s doing exactly that—he could transform the entire Bucs offense. And he won’t have to catch many passes to do so.
Now that would be a massive impact.