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Koetter: O.J. Howard “is going to be a major contributor” in the run game

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The Bucs’ first-round pick is going to be on the field a lot this year.

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Jacksonville Jaguars Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Rookie tight ends often struggle to make an impact for their teams, at least in the passing game. Even powerhouse Rob Gronkowski managed just 42 catches for 542 yards as a rookie, and he played a full season for one of only two times in his career.

That’s why the Tampa Bay Buccaneers perhaps shouldn’t expect too many gaudy numbers from Howard as a rookie, especially with all of the other weapons the Bucs have. But Howard will get on the field plenty of times, especially as a run-blocker—that, at least, is what head coach Dirk Koetter said today.

“O.J. had a really nice day today. I mean he was a first-round draft pick for a reason. The guy is a really good player and it showed today. The fans have a tendency to notice the ‘wow’ plays when he is running downfield, but O.J. does so many little things. O.J. is going to be a major contributor to our run game, he can also protect – there are just not a lot of tight ends who can do it. He’s an all-around player.”

We’ve said this over and over again, but his ability to be a deep threat is only part of why Howard can be a special player. His versatility is what will get him on the field, and turn him into a real tactical conundrum for opposing teams.

That versatility is also what’s going to get Luke Stocker kicked off this team, eventually. That sounds harsh, but Stocker is really only on the team because he’s a good blocker. He’s pretty much useless as a receiver, and the Bucs would obviously prefer blockers who can at least pretend to be a bit of a receiving threat.

They have that player in O.J. Howard now. Stocker might stick around for a season or two as insurance, but his playing time is going to disappear really quickly. And instead of seeing both Stocker and Cameron Brate on the field, we’ll see Howard and Brate giving defensive coordinators headaches. That’ll be fun.