Think of his career as a pass pattern.
In his first year, he was struggling to get off the line of scrimmage. In his second, he was fighting to get open.
Now, he has the ball in his hands, and he’s heading for the end zone.
Such has been the progression of tight end Cameron Brate, who is now starting for the Tampa Bay Bucs as they head into Thursday’s preseason opener against Philadelphia. Brate, a free agent out of Harvard, had 23 catches for 288 yards last year.
“It’s pretty crazy looking back,” Brate said. “Two years ago I was kind of an afterthought, my rookie year I didn’t get too many reps in practice, was just hoping to catch on [in] any way. Luckily I got practice squad, got to play in a couple games my rookie year. Then last year, [I] was kind of at the bottom of the depth chart again. It was a major bummer to get cut, but it ended up working out for me. Just tried to stay as positive as I could, given the situation. Yeah, it’s pretty cool looking back, just kind of how far I’ve come.”
So far, Brate is running ahead of veteran Luke Stocker and former second-round draft pick Austin Saferian-Jenkins.
“He’s a good player,” said Bucs’ coach Dirk Koetter. “He’s 6-5, he can run, he’s smart, he’s coachable, he’s consistent, [and] he knows where to be and when to be there. That’s important. Guys that don’t make mistakes and then when you get a chance to make plays you’ve got to make them and he does. A high percentage of the time when he gets a chance to make a play, he makes it.”
Koetter said that tight end might be one of the team’s deepest positions when Stocker, Seferian-Jenkins and rookie Dan Vitale.
“We’re transitioning,” Koetter said. “We’re going to be more of a two-tight end team, and we’re also going to be a three-wide out team, but we need depth. If we’re going to have a couple out there all the time, we need depth.”
Brate said he’s always been able to catch the ball.
“For whatever reason, I’ve always been able to catch a ball,” Brate said. “It just kind of comes second nature to me. It’s something I take pride in. I’m learning to deal with dropping passes a little better because it’s going to happen from time to time. But that’s definitely one of my better attributes is my ability to catch balls for sure.”
It also doesn’t hurt that Brate seems to have clicked with quarterback Jameis Winston.
“Working with Jameis is awesome, just to see his growth from last year to this year, especially at this point of the year last year we were turning the ball over a lot, and just his command of the offense is awesome,” Brate said..” And obviously great passer, very accurate, so it’s fun playing with him.”