By Jaylon Thompson / The Alliance
ATLANTA – Early in training camp, Atlanta Legends receiver Bug Howard underwent the latest metamorphosis in his football career.
Howard, who stands 6-foot-5, made the switch to tight end after encouragement from NFL evaluators. With “move” tight ends en vogue, the position is one of the league’s premier commodities. Top NFL tight ends like Travis Kelce , George Kittle, and Zach Ertz have been dominant in the role.
The Atlanta Legends (2-5) travel to face the Birmingham Iron (4-3) on Sunday, March 31, at 4 p.m. ET at Legion Field. The game can be seen on CBS Sports Network. Tickets to all Legends games are available here.
Howard hoped to join the conversation. He felt the move was beneficial in helping him develop along the way.
“It’s a lot different than being at receiver,” Howard said. “You are basically the quarterback at the end of the line of scrimmage. You have to see everything in the run and pass game. Also, you got to see the back end of the defense and the coverages.”
This season, Howard has thrived in the role. He has 15 catches for 200 yards and is becoming a valuable security blanket for the Legends.
Howard is a key mismatch on third downs. The Legends try to isolate him on linebackers and let him use his vertical prowess to his advantage. Last week, Howard recorded several big gains, including a one-handed catch that set up a red-zone opportunity.
“When I go out to run routes, I turn into a receiver,” Howard said. “The only thing changed is the fact I am in a three-point stance.”
Howard credits a lot of his success to Legends tight ends coach Corey Woods. The duo put in work to develop Howard’s footwork and physicality at the point of attack. In recent weeks, Howard improved his in-line blocking and pad level in the trenches.
“The transition for him was more in the run game,” Woods said. “He had to be physical and hold up in the trenches. All the credit goes to him. He has been working hard and improving every day. He has a way to go, but every week he is getting better at showing the physicality needed.”
Howard is learning to fire off the football and maintain his balance on running plays. The extra repetitions are key in containing defensive fronts.
“It’s been going pretty good,” Howard said. “Coach Woods has been putting in a lot of work with me. He has taught me the steps and helped me understand how the defensive line works.”
The Legends are counting on Howard down the stretch. He has the tools to be a consistent threat in the middle of the field.
The team is facing a must-win situation. They must win out and get help to catch the Birmingham Iron in the Eastern Conference. The Iron are two games ahead of the Legends.
Both teams square off this Sunday. Howard will be a big part in helping the Legends snap a two-game skid and climb back in the playoff picture.
“It’s been a tremendous blessing to get the opportunity of game experience,” Howard said.
Should Howard continue to impress, the NFL might be one phone call away. It’s a conversation he will be ready to answer after the season.
“I am trying to go to the next level and do similar things,” Howard said.
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Jaylon Thompson covers the Atlanta Legends for The Alliance of American Football. Follow him on Twitter JaylonThompson.