HOUSTON – O.J. Howard broke into his pattern, gaining momentum quickly as he hauled in a long pass Monday morning from Texans quarterback Davis Mills.
Building timing and chemistry is a major part of the acclimation process for the newly-signed veteran tight end and former Tampa Bay Buccaneers first-round draft pick.
The primary immediate challenge for Howard, though, is absorbing the Texans’ playbook. It’s more about the different words Texans offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton utilizes for his plays more so than a huge difference in schematics. Howard is involved in a crash course to get up to speed prior to the Texans’ season-opener Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts.
“I’m grasping it pretty good,” Howard said Monday inside the Texans’ locker room. “It’s not really the whole offense. It’s what we’ve got going on this week. I’ve probably got a long way to go. For what they gave me, it’s been pretty good. Football X’s and O’s really don’t change. It’s the terminology.”
Texans tight end O.J. Howard pic.twitter.com/OhPABY9nd7— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) September 5, 2022
Howard visited the Texans on Thursday, took a physical and quickly agreed to terms after previously visiting the Cincinnati Bengals after being cut by the Buffalo Bills. He signed a one-year contract with a maximum value in the $4 million range, according to a league source.
He had conversations with Hamilton before deciding to join a tight end friendly offense.
“It was kind of hectic at first,” Howard said. “I had calls from Cincy and other teams. I had a couple talks with coach Hamilton. The feelings were mutual. They do a lot of 13 personnel sets (three tight ends. I can come in here and block and whatever it takes. It just felt right.”
O’Terrius Jabari ‘O.J.’ Howard, at 6-foot-6, 251 pounds) has all the physical tools to play the tight end position. He earned a Super Bowl ring with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after winning a national championship at Alabama.
“You’re always trying to add good players, simple as that, and O.J. is a good player,” Texans coach Lovie Smith said. “A lot of talent. He’s excited about being here. Got a chance to see him on the practice field. That’s a spot we’ve talked an awful lot about, adding some depth to the tight end position. Being able to pick up a player like that late in the game like this, is pretty important.”
Howard has 119 career receptions for 1,737 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Texans tight end O.J. Howard getting up to speed in his first practice pic.twitter.com/ObDtXaKXir— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) September 5, 2022
The Texans placed rookie tight end Teagan Quitoriano on injured reserve with a knee injury with a league source saying he’s expected to return within the first half of the season.
The Texans have only starter Pharaoh Brown, second-year player Brevin Jordan and Howard as their tight ends on the 53-man roster with tight ends Jordan Akins, a former Texans starter, and Mason Schreck on the practice squad along with fullback-tight end Paul Quessenberry. The Texans tried to trade for Miami Dolphins tight end Adam Shaheen, but the trade was nullified when he failed a physical due to a knee injury and he was placed on the Miami’s injured reserve list after reverting to their roster. Tight end Antony Auclair missed the entire preseason with a knee injury and was released.
“It’s been good so far,” Howard said. “Whatever the team needs, I’m a team-player guy. Getting in there and block, catch the ball, whatever it takes. I can do it all.”
Howard lost ground behind Quintin Morris and Ammy Sweeney in Buffalo. He did score a touchdown in a win over the Denver Broncos, but it wasn’t enough to secure a roster spot on a squad headlined by Dawson Knox, their veteran starter. Howard caught 14 passes for 135 yards and one touchdown last season for the Buccaneers. He has 119 career receptions for 1,737 yards and 15 touchdowns.
The Texans had more of a need at tight end than Buffalo did. He should fit in extremely well in Hamilton’s offense.
“I love it,” Howard said. “I think the guys we have in our room are big and physical and fast. It’s tough for teams to adjust to that. The way he uses the tight ends, it sets up a lot of different options. We can be very explosive.”
Aaron Wilson is a Pro Football Network reporter and a contributor to KPRC 2 and click2houston.com