Cameron Brate is the Key to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Offense

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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have won the off-season with free agency and the NFL Draft. It’s easy to forget some important developments that took place in the 2016 season that led to optimism before last season ended.

One development was a breakout performance by Cameron Brate.

Cameron Brate is the Key to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Offense

It may come as a surprise that the second leading receiver for the Buccaneers last season was their tight end Brate. In a way, he really saved the Buccaneers’ season when it seemed they were headed for a sixth straight losing campaign.

One reason the Bucs struggled was injuries to running back Doug Martin and a season-ending injury to wide receiver Vincent Jackson. In Martin they lost a running back who rushed for 1,402 yards in 2015 and Jackson had produced three 1,000 yard seasons in the first four seasons for the Buccaneers.

And when it came to the use of tight ends during the first half of the season, the Buccaneers shuffled in Brate, Luke Stocker and Brandon Myers.

Stocker played in 12 games and started ten games but he was primarily used as a blocking tight end as he had just five catches for 23 yards. Stocker has been with the Buccaneers for six seasons and the most catches he’s had in a season was 16 in 2012. He has 49 career touchdown catches and two touchdowns.

Myers’ role has also been as a blocking tight end in the Buccaneers’ double tight end sets. Myers has seven receptions for 59 yards and one touchdown in nine starts and 16 games played. Myers has 41 catches and 376 yards in three seasons with the Buccaneers. He started his first four seasons with the Oakland Raiders and in ’12 he had 79 catches for 806 yards and four touchdowns. In one season for the New York Giants, Myers had 47 catches and four touchdowns.

The Buccaneers started a game with two tight ends 13 times and in one game against the Seattle Seahawks, they started the game with three tight ends.

However, the Buccaneers’ success seemed to coincide with the increased production of Brate. The Buccaneers were 3-5 through their first eight games and Brate had 28 catches for 291 yards and four touchdowns. Brate had just three games with over three catches.

In the Buccaneers’ last seven games they went 5-2. Brate had 29 catches for 369 yards and four touchdowns in that span. Brate finished the season with 57 catches, 660 yards and eight touchdowns. He ended up tied for fifth in the NFL in touchdown catches.

Brate is an excellent route runner who always seems to have a knack for getting open and was the perfect compliment to wide receiver Mike Evans.

Now with the additions of wide receiver DeSean Jackson in free agency and tight end O.J. Howard in the draft, Brate has the potential to be like Ricky Proehl.

Proehl was a consistent performer for the Phoenix/Arizona Cardinals and the Chicago Bears, and was vital to the Carolina Panthers and the St. Louis Rams. With the Panthers, Proehl went to the Super Bowl in 2003 and was a part of a receiving corps that featured Muhsin Muhammad and Steve Smith.

He’s best remembered for being on the Rams teams that won the Super Bowl in 1999 and nearly won in 2001. Proehl was in the same passing attack with Marshall Faulk, Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt and had eight catches for 121 yards and one touchdown in three postseason games in ’99.

Brate has an opportunity to have a similar impact for the Buccaneers in a passing attack with Evans, Jackson and Howard after his experience as a reliable target will allow his versatility to be the difference.

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