September 14, 2019 / 5:37 PM / a year ago

Bucs' Arians: TE Howard 'can play a heck of a lot better'

Aug 16, 2019; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end O.J. Howard (80) exits the field after winning the game against the Miami Dolphins at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end O.J. Howard does not appear to be in the good graces of Bruce Arians, and the team’s new coach wasn’t shy about his thoughts of Howard’s performance.

Howard followed up his four-reception, 32-yard game in Tampa Bay’s season-opening loss to San Francisco with a catchless effort in Thursday’s 20-14 victory over Carolina. To make matters worse, the third-year tight end wasn’t even targeted by quarterback Jameis Winston against the Panthers.

Arians was direct in his response when reporters asked why Howard has been stuck in neutral.

“You’d probably have to ask him,” the 66-year-old Arians said. “He’s got so much talent and he can play a heck of a lot better than he’s playing.”

Howard got off on the wrong foot in the opener versus the 49ers, fumbling once and tipping a ball that led to an interception.

The 24-year-old Howard was expected to have a much better start to the season after wide receivers DeSean Jackson (Philadelphia) and Adam Humphries (Tennessee) departed for other teams.

Howard reeled in 34 receptions for 565 yards and five touchdowns during his injury-shortened 2018 campaign.

Howard has 64 receptions for 1,029 yards and 11 scores in 26 games since being selected by the Buccaneers with the 19th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft out of Alabama.

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