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Data Crunch: NFL's Most Prolific Tight Ends

Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard have combined to produce more yards and TDs than any other tight end duo in the NFL this season, and they could eventually join an exclusive list of teammates


The most production the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have ever gotten from the tight end position in a single season came in 1985. That wasn't a particularly good year for the team, as it went 2-14 in the first year after John McKay's retirement, but the tight end trio of Jimmie Giles, Jerry Bell and Calvin Magee gave the offense some bite. Between them, they accounted for 112 receptions for 1,457 yards and 13 touchdowns, which was about 43% of the Bucs' passing attack that year.

Through six games, the 2017 Buccaneers have a tight end corps that is on pace to approach, match or surpass the numbers put up by that 1985 trio. The catch is, this time it's only two tight ends putting up all those numbers.

Cameron Brate is second on the team in receptions and third in receiving yards with 27 catches for 341 yards, and his four touchdowns tie Mike Evans for the lead. Rookie O.J. Howard has added 11 receptions for 205 yards and three scores. (Tight ends Alan Cross and Luke Stocker have a combined three receptions this year but for the purposes of this analysis we'll limit the numbers to what Brate and Howard have produced.)

Combined, Brate and Howard are on pace to catch 101 passes for 1,456 yards and 19 touchdowns. Obviously, that pace could accelerate or decelerate a bit over the next 10 games, but the two seem like a good bet to finish as the most prolific tight end duo in franchise history. Here are the Buccaneer tight end pairs they are chasing, in which each tight end had at least 200 yards:

**Year** **Tight End #1** **Tight End #2** **Rec.** **Yds.** **TDs**
1985 Jimmie Giles (43-673-8) Jerry Bell (43-496-2) 86 1,169 10
1984 Jerry Bell (29-397-4) Jimmie Giles (24-310-2) 53 707 6
2008 Jerramy Stevens (36-397-2) Alex Smith (21-250-3) 57 647 5
2015 A. Seferian-Jenkins (21-338-4) Cameron Brate (23-288-3) 44 626 7
1994 Jackie Harris (26-337-3) Tyji Armstrong (22-265-1) 48 602 4

* *The Buccaneers have the most productive tight end duo in the NFL so far this season, despite playing one fewer game than 21 of the other 32 teams. Tampa Bay and Washington (Vernon Davis and Jordan Reed) are the only teams who can already boast two tight ends with more than 200 yards. The Buccaneers are the only with two tight ends who have each scored at least three touchdowns already.

Brate and Howard have more combined receiving yards and touchdown catches than any other pair of tight end teammates in the NFL. Most of the other teams in the top 10 are getting the majority of their combined production from one player.

**Team** **Tight End #1** **Tight End #2** **Rec.** **Yds.** **TDs**
TB Cameron Brate (27-341-4) O.J. Howard (11-205-3) 38 546 7
PHI Zach Ertz (39-494-5) Trey Burton (7-49-1) 46 543 6
WAS Vernon Davis (15-292-1) Jordan Reed (26-206-2) 41 498 3
NE Rob Gronkowski (29-452-4) Jacob Hollister (2-24-0) 31 476 4
KC Travis Kelce (37-423-3) Demetrius Harris (7-52-1) 44 475 4
TEN Delanie Walker (32-324-0) Jonnu Smith (11-107-2) 43 431 2
BUF Charles Clay (20-258-2) Nick O'Leary (9-165-0) 29 423 2
NYG Evan Engram (30-342-3) Rhett Ellison (6-50-1) 36 392 4
CLE Seth DeValve (16-194-1) David Njoku (16-176-3) 32 370 4
BAL Benjamin Watson (31-220-2) Nick Boyle (18-138-0) 49 358 2

The projected combined totals for Brate and Howard, based on their pace of production through six games, includes 1,456 yards. Individually, that splits into approximately 909 yards for Brate and 547 for Howard. Those would both be significant totals in Buccaneers history. Tampa Bay's single-season record for receiving yards by a tight end is 884 by Kellen Winslow in 2009. The team's rookie record for tight ends is 571 yards, by Tim Wright in 2013.

Either of the two could be a threat to the Bucs' single-season mark for touchdowns by a tight end, a record of which Brate already owns a share. His eight scores last year tied the mark originally set by Giles in 1985. The Bucs' rookie record in this category is five, also set by Wright in 2013.

In a broader sense, Brate and Howard could join a fairly small club if they can even get close to their current projections. Barring injury, Brate seems like a lock to hit 500 receiving yards on the season, and Howard appears to have a good chance as well. If so, it would be just the 12th instance of two TE teammates each surpassing 500 yards in the same season since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger. Three of the previous 11 included Rob Gronkowski and the Patriots. Interestingly, two of the 11 instances occurred last year. The pairs below are ranked by their combined yardage total, and the projected marks for Brate and Howard are included for comparison.

**Team** **Season** **Tight End #1** **Tight End #2** **Rec.** **Yds.** **TDs**
NE 2011 Rob Gronkowski Aaron Hernandez 169 2,237 24
OAK 1979 Dave Casper Raymond Chester 115 1,483 11
TB* 2017 Cameron Brate O.J. Howard *101 *1,456 *19
NYJ 1973 Jerome Barkum Rich Caster 79 1,403 10
SD 1984 Pete Holohan Kellen Winslow 111 1,397 3
NYJ 1975 Rich Caster Jerome Barkum 83 1,369 9
WAS 2016 Jordan Reed Vernon Davis 110 1,269 8
NYJ 1974 Rich Caster Jerome Barkum 79 1,269 10
NE 2016 Martellus Bennett Rob Gronkowski 80 1,241 10
NE 2010 Aaron Hernandez Rob Gronkowski 87 1,109 16
TEN 2005 Erron Kinney Ben Troupe 110 1,073 6
DET 2012 Brandon Pettigrew Tony Scheffler 101 1,071 4

* Projected 16-game totals based on current pace.

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