Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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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**
1985Jimmie Giles (43-673-8)Jerry Bell (43-496-2)861,16910
1984Jerry Bell (29-397-4)Jimmie Giles (24-310-2)537076
2008Jerramy Stevens (36-397-2)Alex Smith (21-250-3)576475
2015A. Seferian-Jenkins (21-338-4)Cameron Brate (23-288-3)446267
1994Jackie Harris (26-337-3)Tyji Armstrong (22-265-1)486024

* *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**
TBCameron Brate (27-341-4)O.J. Howard (11-205-3)385467
PHIZach Ertz (39-494-5)Trey Burton (7-49-1)465436
WASVernon Davis (15-292-1)Jordan Reed (26-206-2)414983
NERob Gronkowski (29-452-4)Jacob Hollister (2-24-0)314764
KCTravis Kelce (37-423-3)Demetrius Harris (7-52-1)444754
TENDelanie Walker (32-324-0)Jonnu Smith (11-107-2)434312
BUFCharles Clay (20-258-2)Nick O'Leary (9-165-0)294232
NYGEvan Engram (30-342-3)Rhett Ellison (6-50-1)363924
CLESeth DeValve (16-194-1)David Njoku (16-176-3)323704
BALBenjamin Watson (31-220-2)Nick Boyle (18-138-0)493582

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**
NE2011Rob GronkowskiAaron Hernandez1692,23724
OAK1979Dave CasperRaymond Chester1151,48311
TB*2017Cameron BrateO.J. Howard*101*1,456*19
NYJ1973Jerome BarkumRich Caster791,40310
SD1984Pete HolohanKellen Winslow1111,3973
NYJ1975Rich CasterJerome Barkum831,3699
WAS2016Jordan ReedVernon Davis1101,2698
NYJ1974Rich CasterJerome Barkum791,26910
NE2016Martellus BennettRob Gronkowski801,24110
NE2010Aaron HernandezRob Gronkowski871,10916
TEN2005Erron KinneyBen Troupe1101,0736
DET2012Brandon PettigrewTony Scheffler1011,0714

* Projected 16-game totals based on current pace.

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