Bucs TE Cameron Brate - Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR
SR’s Fab 5 is a collection of inside scoop, analysis and insight from yours truly, PewterReport.com publisher and Bucs beat writer Scott Reynolds. Here are a few things that caught my attention this week at One Buc Place and around the NFL.
FAB 1. BRATE BECOMING A FORCE FOR BUCS OFFENSE
When a general manager swings and misses on a draft pick, but ends up making up for the whiff on draft day with an undrafted free agent at the same position that winds up being a gem I call it “a save.”
Such was the case in 2008 when former Tampa Bay general manager Bruce Allen and ex-head coach Jon Gruden reached badly for speed receiver and return specialist Dexter Jackson from Appalachian State with the Bucs’ second-round pick. Jackson, who was known for catching a couple of slant passes for touchdowns when App State walked into Michigan and pulled one of the greatest college football upsets of all time, was an awful selection.
He played scared as a receiver and as a return specialist, and lasted just one season in the NFL. Jackson may go down as being the worst second-round draft pick in Tampa Bay history.
Some say it’s Booker Reese, who was the second-rounder in 1982, but he lasted two years in Tampa Bay and actually had some statistics to show for his efforts, namely a sack and two interceptions in 1983.
Jackson returned 20 punts for 97 yards (4.9 avg.) and returned 14 kickoffs for 327 yards (23.4 avg.) in his lone season with the Bucs before giving way to an undrafted free agent named Clifton Smith, who handled returns for the last three quarters of the season. On November 2, 2008, Smith returned a kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown at Kansas City to key a second-half comeback after Tampa Bay trailed 24-6. The Bucs would go on to win, 30-27, in overtime, and Smith, who also had a 70-yard punt return for a touchdown in the 2008 season, went on to the Pro Bowl during his rookie season.
That’s “a save.”
Bucs TE Cameron Brate – Photo by: Getty Images
Bucs general manager Jason Licht has “a save” of his own in tight end Cameron Brate, who was signed as an undrafted free agent out of Harvard in 2014 – the same year Tampa Bay drafted tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins with the team’s second-round pick. Brate was initially released by the Bucs and signed to the practice squad before being promoted to the active roster late in the season where he caught a 17-yard pass.
Last year, the Bucs released Brate prior to the season on September 15. The Saints stepped in and snatched him up for a week and put him on their practice squad, before Tampa Bay realized the error of its ways and signed him off New Orleans’ practice squad a week later after Seferian-Jenkins was injured – ironically at the Superdome in a win over the Saints.
Brate stepped in for Seferian-Jenkins and started four games, catching 23 passes for 288 yards and three touchdowns in 2015. It was Brate who entered training camp as the starter over Seferian-Jenkins despite ASJ’s higher draft status, and has become the team’s go-to receiver at the tight end position after Seferian-Jenkins’ release prior to Tampa Bay’s Week 3 game against Los Angeles. Brate caught a career-high two touchdowns against the Rams while catching five passes for 46 yards in what has been his coming out party.
Brate followed up that game with five catches for 67 yards in a loss to Denver and cooled off a bit until catching a touchdown pass against Oakland. That began a three-game stretch in which the Harvard product has caught a touchdown.
He tied his career high the following week with five catches for 43 yards and a score against Atlanta, and had a career day in Tampa Bay’s 36-10 win over Chicago, catching seven passes for 84 yards and one touchdown against the Naperville, Ill. native’s favorite team while growing up.
“It was good to see he got a little bit of YAC this week,” said veteran Bucs tight end Brandon Myers, who has helped mentor Brate. “If you’re catching balls, if you’re catching passes on third downs for first downs, you’re doing something good. Obviously there’s going to be weeks where you’re not going to catch seven balls, but if he keeps working on the little parts of his game week in and week out, he’s going in the right direction.”
All of Brate’s catches on Sunday went for first downs or a touchdown as the Bears were determined to double cover wide receiver Mike Evans. Brate’s five TD receptions this year are tied for the league lead among tight ends, and he’s tied with Adam Humphries for the second-most catches behind Evans on the team.
The modest Brate is even shocked at his own level of early success. The NFL is a long way from the Ivy League where he starred for Harvard.
“I never would’ve envisioned that a couple years ago, but having done it the last couple years, playing in the NFL, you just have to wait for your opportunity and when it arrives, you just have to be ready,” Brate said.
Bucs TE Cameron Brate – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR
Since entering the league Brate has prepared for his moment, especially in the weight room where he has re-sculpted his body and is now a chiseled 250 pounds – up 10 pounds of muscle from when he first walked through the doors of One Buc Place to become a better in-line blocker.
“I didn’t get to see Cam when he first got here, but just talking to people, his work ethic – not only in the weight room, but learning the game and what it takes to be successful – there’s so much that goes in than just the physical stuff and he’s done a great job of that,” Bucs quarterback Ryan Griffin said. “But he’s a meathead definitely; don’t let the Harvard education fool you. He eats weights. That’s all he thinks about. He doesn’t have any other thoughts.”
Brate is not the biggest or the strongest player in the weight room, but no Buccaneer may work harder on his body.
“If you’re ever here, you see him in the training room,” Myers said. “He doesn’t leave. He’s one of the guys you always see with Jameis, putting the time in and it’s good to see. He gets it and some guys don’t. That’s why he’s been successful.”
Brate admits to being intimidated when he first entered the NFL. He knew he didn’t measure up physically and had to do something about it. Armed with a tremendous work ethic, Brate hit the weights and caught passes from Winston any time the young quarterback wanted to throw the ball after practice or during the offseason.
“My rookie year I got kind of too big; it wasn’t good weight,” Brate said. “I kind of put on weight just to say I weighed that much. But really with [strength coach Dave Kennedy] here and some guys I’ve worked with back home, those guys have given me so much knowledge and so many tools to get the most out of my body. It’s those small things you don’t see that make a big difference. It just helps your body from breaking down.”
Brate’s physique is growing as much as his confidence is, and the only thing that is breaking down is opposing defenses trying to stop him.
“He’s just so smart,” said Bucs rookie safety Ryan Smith, who has to cover Brate in practice. “He knows moves to get open, and he studies his defender. He knows who he’s going against, what to do, how to get open. He has great hands and great knowledge; those are the characteristics of a great tight end.”
Eight years after a big kick return from an undrafted free agent led to Tampa Bay’s come-from-behind win, the Bucs return to Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday and Licht’s “save,” a stud undrafted free agent enters the game with nearly as much production as Kansas City’s Pro Bowl tight end Travis Kelce.
Brate has a career-high 35 catches for 375 yards and five touchdowns. Kelce has 42 catches for 466 yards and three scores, but hasn’t caught more than five touchdowns in any season. Brate already has five.
“He’s one of the best at the position,” Brate said of Kelce, who he’ll be squaring off against on Sunday. “This offseason, the coaches made a bunch of clips for us of tight ends – Tyler Eifert, Travis Kelce, Rob Gronkowski, Jordan Reed – so hopefully we could pick up some of the things that they do and we did. He’s really impressed me with the way he runs routes and he’s definitely one of the guys I look up to.”
If Brate continues his touchdown streak this Sunday in Kansas City and remains productive down the stretch he could poised for an improbable Pro Bowl berth by season’s end.
“It’s just a matter of time,” Myers said. “If we keep winning ball games he’s going to get recognized.”
Brate is so humble and his success is so new that he remains surprised that any media members want to interview him. With a huge grin on his face, Brate reveals his biggest area of improvement since entering the league in 2014.
“This will sound pretty weak, but I would just say confidence and being able to do it at this level,” Brate said. “I know I can play at this level, but having a game like I had on Sunday … well, I thought I did a pretty good job at making plays and getting open.”
Pretty good? The Bucs think Brate is great.
Scott Reynolds is in his 23rd year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds enjoys giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]
Good Fab 5
I would have to rate Brate great. Maybe he can grate on other defenses. Don’t want to orate or berate Brate. I think his play is animated and pretty good. I believe that he will agitate KC.
Back in the day it was the addition of Simeon Rice that made the BUCS a feared defense.
Yes I am onboard with signing a DE. Rice was the 2nd best free agent ever for the BUCS.
Nickerson is #1 signing. If we don’t sign a DE sign someone else on the line. O or D. Don’t care, build up the lines. I know, broken record.
You can say you practice the scramble, but it’s all Winston when it happens. I don’t want to see a steady diet of those plays but It’s cool when they work. Last weeks scramble was epic.
Gottscalk seems to be a big corn fed kind of guy. Not a bad thing.
Scott, I think that Licht did a good job of recognizing that Brate had potential, but if they thought he was that good they never would have cut him in the first place. What made Brate was Brate himself. I’ll grant Licht an assist but Brate was the guy that got the goal (to steal a hockey term). It was Brate’s willingness to work the weight room, learn the playbook and take every rep he could with Winston that got him the starting TE job. JMO.
This next draft is going to be the one that if we hit the right combination of picks can propel this team to the next level IMO. Right now I see our top 4 needs as DL, OT, WR and S and people could make a strong case for another CB. That’s too many holes to plug in the draft and FA is mostly a crap shoot. You can’t have stars at every position, so the question is in what order do you fill those needs knowing that the lower you go the less likely you are to get a starter let alone an impact player? We tried to shore up the safety position a few years back by a guy that even John Lynch said was a ‘can’t miss’ player and he basically busted out with us. Do we do what some fans recommend and move Don Smith over to RT and attempt to draft a LT knowing that in 2013, three LT’s were taken in the first 5 picks none of which has had the success you would expect for someone taken that high. Should we do what Atlanta did back a few years ago when Roddy White was still considered a #1 wide receiver and pick another guy that can basically be another #1 wide receiver so that teams will have nightmares about who to cover? Or do what others have talked about and draft a fast DE to go along the defensive line and hope that he’s not another Gaines Adams? In short, every need we have has a recent example of players that were thought to be ‘can’t miss’ guys that ended up missing, in some cases, badly?
Licht has done mostly good with his drafting so far, mostly in the first round, but he’s going to have to nail both the 1st rounder and 2nd rounder this next draft for this team to go from wannabe to contender. If you were the GM, what positions are you looking at for the first two picks next year? Me, I know we need a WR and a OT (maybe even a LT), but my 1st pick is probably going DE unless 3 are gone before we pick and then grab that Safety in the 2nd, otherwise I’ll reverse my selections.
The DE’s didn’t look that dynamic to me that you listed. I’m more incline to grab an OL, then DE, then Safety; WR can come anytime after those other positions. sounds like to me Gottschalk is a lot cheaper than Hawley & Smith; I might draft a center in the late rounds too for back up.
Thanks for another insightful FAB 5. What I love about the Brate story is the lack of ego Licht has as a GM. There are so many GM’s in this league that would’ve kept pressuring the head coach to play ASJ as to make sure they don’t look bad. Yet Licht had no problem cutting ties with ASJ in favor of Brate. The Brate story is also why I’m so high on the future of the Bucs with Licht and Koetter leading the way, because it shows that the best players will play no matter how they were acquired and I think that goes a long way to locker room morale!
Sorry to disagree but Licht has a HUGE ego. Just look at drifting RA. HE bragged about resign up to get him. And remember Licht’s press conference when he drafted ASJ, bragging about the “Dunkaneers”. I could go on but won’t. Suffice it to say that Licht has a HUGE ego!!!
SuckNuts2, why does everything you comment on here have to be such an obvious attempt at trolling? Every comment you make is never supported with facts and is always on the complete opposite end of the spectrum in terms of what everyone else thinks. For a troll you really do a shit job trying to hide your identity under that bridge. You also go about bringing these opinions up in the douchiest way possible, stating it as if it is truth.
In no way does Licht have a “HUGE” ego. He’s already shown that he’s willing to cut ties with mistakes that he makes in free agency, i.e. M. Johnson, Sterling Moore, Bruce Carter, Anthony Collins and others, almost immediately after seeing he was wrong. The same goes for his draft picks. If they don’t work out he lets them go immediately. Much sooner than most GMs would instead of letting them hang around to try to prove themselves right. Obviously there are a few that weren’t immediate but for the vast majority he has shown he isn’t afraid to admit his mistakes.
Enough with your feeble attempts at trolling each and every week here, seriously. If you haven’t noticed yet – no one around here enjoys your presence or what you post. I know I am only doing what you want and feeding you but please just keep your ridiculous statements to yourself or take them to another fan site that has more people like you (I could suggest a few for you). This site has mostly informed fans that even if we don’t agree on all things Bucs our opinions aren’t so far out in left field and stated as if it were fact. Be gone troll. GO BUCS. GO WINSTON. GO LICHT!
And please go on about Licht’s HUGE ego. you said you could go on but won’t. Show me how Licht “bragged” about moving up to get Aguayo, if thats what you were trying to say in your incoherent post. And he bragged about getting ASJ and the Dunkaneers? Show me where he did this please. I guess being excited about drafting good college players constitutes having a big ego to you. I don’t see how any of that comes even close to proving that he has a huge ego. If thats your definition of it then every single coach and GM in the league has a huge ego because im sure none of them are coming out in a press conference and saying they aren’t happy with the players that they picked. The part that shows he DOESN’T have a big ego is what he does once he realizes he was wrong. Which I already explained in my previous post.
Say whatever you want. I comment on this site regularly and have my opinions just as you have yours. You have not facts to back your opinions either. For the record, I have routinely been attacked on this site simply for stating my opinion and have never been anything but respectful to you and everyone else. Why do you feel it is necessary to call me names?
Try this report on ESPN. Link forthcoming:
“We’re the Dunkaneers,” Licht said.
At 6-foot-5, rookie Mike Evans is one of several tall receivers on the Tampa Bay roster. AP Photo/Chris O’Meara
Evans, Seferian-Jenkins and veteran wideout Vincent Jackson each are at least 6-foot-5, giving the Bucs a group of receivers who resemble an NBA roster. Seferian-Jenkins actually played college basketball for one season.
The Bucs certainly need big-time help: In 2013, they ranked last in passing offense (176 yards per game) and 23rd in red-zone efficiency. Based on his history, new quarterback Josh McCown will enjoy having tall targets.
Playing for Chicago last year, McCown connected with Brandon Marshall (6-4), Alshon Jeffery (6-4) or Martellus Bennett (6-6) on nine of his 13 touchdown passes, including five in the red zone.
If nothing else, it will be difficult for McCown to overthrow the Bucs’ big three. Evans made that clear with one particular catch during June minicamp, fully extending to make a one-handed grab worthy of a highlight reel.
“You take a player that high in the draft,” new head coach Lovie Smith said of Evans, the seventh overall pick, “you expect to see some spectacular plays.”
The highlight show has continued early in training camp with Evans, Seferian-Jenkins and Jackson all making nice catches. If the Bucs get those big-time plays in the regular season, their fans can expect to see a significant improvement over last season’s four-win disappointment.
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Totally agree on Brate. He’s been awesome. As to the draft we have so many holes on this team, I am not sure that reach for pass rusher. We need OL, Safety, WR and another CB. Lots of needs and little depth. In addition, we need to draft a QB in rounds 3-5.
As always a very insightful Fab 5 of which I thoroughly enjoy each Saturday morning.
It looks like Joe Hawley will start at center this week against the Chiefs so Horse’s favorite developing center may not get another opportunity to solidify his spot on the 2017 roster. I will say, being thrust into the action with hardly enough time to gather his thoughts was impressive. I saw no glaring mistakes and he seemed to hold up physically despite his relatively small stature. I don’t know if the youngster is the future starter, but he showed he can be in the conversation. Nice job #72.
Cameron Brate is really developing into a quality TE. This past game against the Bears showed that he can be a solid weapon in Jameis’ arsenal. I suspect Brate never received much quality coaching during his time at Harvard as compared to the football factories. If that is true then his development is sure to be a rapid one with his strong work ethic and obvious smarts.
We all enjoy discussing the Draft, but after the victory against the Bears at least we’re still discussing the 2016 season during the Thanksgiving holiday. While drafting pass rushers is always going to be a consideration; unless the medical staff determines that Jacquies Smith is unable to recover sufficiently, we may already have a viable candidate to return to the starting left DE role. I really don’t know why folks are so critical of Donovan Smith when he has only played 1-1/2 seasons. I’ll leave it to the Bucs staff to determine if #76 is the long term answer or if a move from left to right to replace Demar Dotson is a consideration. I’m not ready to give up on the youngster just yet. I contend that we need to target WR early in the Draft to give Jameis a full compliment of quality receivers who give DC’s fits. Lots of needs to fill.
Why do we always have one poster who serves as the all knowing, soothsaying critic and antagonist? For a while it was my old Tennessee friend known as BucFan 47 who repeatedly looked down his nose at us “casual fans”. From his perch on Rockytop he believed himself to be the equal to Moses. And now we have Bucnut, who is nowhere near the level of BF47 in terms of disdain for his fellow Pewter Report readers. Instead, he chooses to find fault with no matter what Jameis Winston does; even calling him a “bust.”Now, he is able to detect the level of Jason Licht’s ego as that Kia commercial screams, “HUGE!”. I suspect most NFL GM’s have elevated egos; but the self described “meathead” doesn’t strike me as a “my way” egomaniac. Consensus taker, confidence and conviction are more likely the adjectives that would describe Jason Licht. Perhaps Scott Reynolds can give us his perception since, unlike Bucnut, has had sit down chats with our GM.
We already know SR’s opinion of Licht, he likes him. And for the record, I am not the fan SR is. I think he draft record is spotty. His FA signings have by in large been disasters and he has let a LOT of good players go elsewhere.
Licht is still growing in his role, hopefully he learns from his failures, and his triumphs. Scott, had to pimp the K Stater D end in Buc shots, lol. Let’s not over think the room. If you have two talented D ends rated high from Bama, look no further. It’s the best program in all college football run by a defensive minded head coach, and maybe one of the best college coaches of all time. Let’s say you’re a G.M. on draft day, and looking for a D end. Two guys rated at the top, one from Bama, and Haywood U Blowmi from Whats A Matter U. The kid from Bama had 3 sacks in the championship game, but Blowmi’s 40 time was off the charts. Who you picking?
By the way, What’s A Matter U’s most famous alum is Bullwinkle. Not sure if Rocky went to college.
Where’s the info on pass rushers ???
While I realize we are coming off a victory against the (very bad news) Bears, I have to admit to being amazed there is not more focus on the OL by the posters or PR. Did you see the end of the Cowboys Steelers game? Elliott was untouched going through the middle of the line on that last TD run. That’s what a disciplined investment on the line gets you. Plugging in a no name guy at Center or Guard and hoping he develops into something is NOT the way you build the line, t’s the way you build depth. Two very different things.
Think about the next two years. We need TWO tackles, a center and probably a guard. If you want to build a winner for a multi-year run, heck, if you just want Jameis to remain upright, then we need to spend two high draft choices on the OL next year, and at least one the following year (along with a later round pick).
Why do we need to do this? Because of Lovie trashing the line and then Licht failing to fix it, taking one step forward with Marpet but then two steps back ,reaching for Smith (maybe move him inside where his lack of mobility less of a problem?) and signing Sweezy.
Sorry, not trying to irritate people but that’s where we’re at. Fix it now or forever suffer the consequences…
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