Based on Dirk Koetter’s enthusiasm on the subject of Cameron Brate last month at the NFL Owners Meetings, one could assume that there are big things in store for the second-year tight end next season.
When asked about the situation at tight end, Koetter made it clear that he believes Austin Seferian-Jenkins has a lot of potential if he can stay on the field, but added that the one positive outcome as a result of his shoulder injury was Brate’s emergence.
The Harvard graduate caught 23 passes for 288 yards in his first season as a starter after being re-claimed off the Saints’ practice squad last September. Koetter said that he and Jameis Winston developed a chemistry, particularly in red zone situations, that is hard to replicate.
“You never know how or why certain guys are going to connect at a certain rate, but Jameis and Cam connected,” Koetter said. “They had a good feel for each other in the red zone and on seam routes and Cam made the most of his opportunities.”
Improvement from Year 1 to Year 2 is nothing new for Brate. After catching 25 passes for 386 yards during his sophomore year at Harvard, he recorded 41 receptions for 592 yards the next season in 2012, earning first team All-Ivy League as a junior. Brate’s stats dropped to 25 receptions for 403 yards as a senior, but that was largely due to a quarterback change after Colton Chapple, one of Harvard’s all-time great QBs, graduated.
Brate won’t go through any such quarterback change or, for that matter, system change this season in Tampa Bay. He figures to build on last year’s success and be a key piece in Koetter’s offense from Day 1.
“Cam is an ascending player and our hope for him is that he takes it and runs with it,” Koetter said. “That’s what you want, and it would be a great story. It would be great for our team.”
It’s worth noting that a source informed PewterReport.com last week that he saw Jameis Winston leading a group of four Buccaneers, including Brate, through passing drills at an open field. During the portion of the player-led practice that he witnessed, the source said Brate was by far Winston’s favorite target and, like the second-year quarterback, he’s slimmed down and has a completely muscular build. Brate’s physique, alone, suggests he’ll have a bigger role in the passing game next season, but his rapport with Winston has to be especially promising for the Bucs offense.