Being selected to his first Pro Bowl would have been great, Bucs tight end Cameron Brate said, but the thought’s far from the forefront of his mind.
Two games remain on Tampa Bay’s schedule and they just so happen to be more meaningful than any others played in years.
“There are a lot of other good tight ends in the league,” Brate said about the Pro Bowl, which is being played for the
TE Cameron Brate – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
first time in Orlando. “It would be cool if I got there, but yeah, it’s not that important to me.”
While votes from fans, players and coaches favored the Carolina Panthers’ Greg Olsen and the Washington Redskins’ Jordan Reed, Brate continues to show he not only belongs in the league but can play at a high level.
The 25-year-old is tied for the NFL lead with San Diego Chargers rookie Hunter Henry for most touchdown receptions by a tight end, with seven. In addition to the scores, Brate has 56 catches (10th in the NFL), 648 yards (seventh), and 39 first-down receptions (tied for fourth).
“Cam Brate is a big-time tight end,” Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston said. “One reason is because he’s very dependable and another reason is because he works his tail off. I keep saying he’s one of the hardest workers we have on this team. Always working after practice, always getting in extra reps. He’s just the epitome of hard work pays off.”
It’s not only fellow offensive players taking notice of Brate’s work ethic and how it’s paying off, either.
“I think the first thing is the way he approaches the game,” said safety Keith Tandy. “Every single day he has his routine and he’s very detailed about it. He comes to work every single day and goes about it, he goes out early and catches balls, he’s taking care of his body right. It’s not surprising what he’s doing to anybody in the locker room.”
Brate’s made his biggest strides this season when Tampa Bay gets itself into opponents’ red zones. In addition to his seven touchdowns being tied for the league lead, Brate’s closing in on the Bucs’ franchise record of eight held by Ring of Honor Inductee Jimmy Giles in 1985.
With injuries depleting the Bucs at wide receiver, defenses have been able to direct more of their attention on containing Mike Evans. That strategy allows Brate to get himself more involved.
“They’ve got to make a choice, either Cam or Mike, and they’re going to pick Mike most of the time,” Winston said of that strategy. “But, that’s what it is, when you have a great tight end, he creates matchup problems for defenses, so we’ve got to keep him going.”
TE Cameron Brate – Photo by: Getty Images
One talent Brate doesn’t possess is elite-level explosiveness, but he offsets that lack of burst with the ability to get open and haul in whatever’s thrown inside his catch radius. Brate’s recorded just five gains of 20-plus yards and a long of 38 yards (twice), though he’s caught 70.9 percent of his targets (56 of 79) and hasn’t been charged with a drop this season, according to stats compiled by SportingCharts.com.
“Cam’s an ascending player, he’s continued to improve all year,” Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter said. “Some guys have a tendency to maybe fade a little bit late in the year as their body gets tired. I think Cam’s done a great job of keeping his weight and his endurance up, and he is a guy that’s playing well for us.”
Brate didn’t have much to say when asked about his personal successes this week. Responses were longer and more detailed when questions focused on the final two games and trying to keep playing football past Week 17.
“We’re going to take it one game at a time as cliché as that is,” Brate said. “But we can’t go 2-0 this week, we just have to focus on the Saints. We’ve got to learn what we did wrong against the Cowboys and this week’s huge for us.
“The better we protect Jameis, the better we’re going to be as an offense. In the fourth quarter [in Dallas], we struggled a little big protecting him and we didn’t really do anything [on offense]. So as long as we give him time back there to make plays and make the throws we’re going to be all right.”