Will Scotty Miller break out in 2021?
By: Adam Hulse (@AdamHulseSports)
The main reason why the Bucs are the defending Super Bowl champions is the great strength of their roster. They have done an excellent job adding veteran talent to an already solid core, which took them to the next level. One thing that they don’t get enough credit for is their young depth. On the defensive side of the ball, where they are one of the best in the NFL, they have young players at every level that are already making big contributions. The offense was dominated mostly by the veterans last season but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have talent that’s potentially ready for a breakout this season. Here are three candidates at the offensive skill positions that fit this scenario.
WR Scotty Miller
Very quietly, Scotty Miller had a very solid season last year in the loaded Bucs offense. There were many players looking for target shares and Miller was one of the players who carved out a solid and steady role throughout the season. He played in all 16 regular-season games while accumulating 33 receptions on 53 targets for 501 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns. His 15.2 yards per reception was the highest on the entire team. He was also the fifth most targeted player, which is very impressive considering how loaded they were with offensive weapons.
After only 2 seasons in the NFL, the 23-year-old Miller has shown some promise that he can be a long-term piece at wide receiver for the Bucs. He could potentially be their third option behind superstars Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, or possibly even higher if one of them moves on from the team. He has a good understanding of coverage schemes and is a great route runner with sneaky speed and reliable hands. This is a year that he could take the next step and be a big part of the offensive scheme.
TE OJ Howard
Unfortunately, OJ Howard has been unable to stay healthy in his young career. He has not been able to play a full 16 games in any of his four NFL seasons so far. The most frustrating example was last season when he was only able to play in four games total before being shut down for the year. On the positive side, he was productive in those four games as he accumulated 11 receptions on 19 targets for 146 yards and two touchdowns. That is an encouraging stat line and could be an indicator that he’s ready to break out this year if he can avoid injury.
The talent has always been there for Howard and he has a great frame at 6’6 and 250 pounds. He is built like a solid tight end and has the athleticism to compliment it. Quarterback Tom Brady is known for heavily using his tight ends in the passing scheme so the opportunities will be there for Howard. Tight ends were targeted on 137 of the 626 passing attempts for the Bucs last season, which is more than 20 percent and one of the highest rates in the NFL. The door is wide open for Howard to have a true breakout campaign in the 2021 season.
WR Tyler Johnson
In his rookie campaign, Tyler Johnson did not get a ton of opportunities but showed flashes of potential at times. He has good build at 6’2 and 206 pounds which is almost identical to Godwin. He has the potential to be a big-play receiver, especially when most of the defensive attention is focused on Evans and Godwin. It was a small sample size, but his 14.1 yards per reception were third-best on the team. It will be interesting to see what Johnson could do if he starts to get a fair share of targets. He is a receiver that the Bucs plan to be a part of their future, so it’s possible that they increase his workload this year to see what they really have with him. He is a wild card who could possibly be a surprise, despite the fact that he does have a very low floor when it comes to projections for this season.