The Tampa Bay Buccaneers might have to bench their longest-tenured player in order to jump-start the offense.
As the Buccaneers continue their sluggish start to the season, Tampa Bay is in desperate need of a jolt entering their Week 4 matchup versus the Kansas City Chiefs. Through the first three games of the season, the Buccaneers are averaging 17.0 points per game, ranking 22nd in the league. It’s a drastic decline from the 30.1 points per game they averaged last season, ranking second in the league.
Following their season-low 12-point scoring output versus the Green Bay Packers in Week 3, Bleacher Report’s Alex Ballentine is urging the Buccaneers to bench their starting tight end, Cameron Brate. Brate has just seven catches for 68 yards and no touchdowns through the first three weeks of the season.
“Usually, it’s games like these (versus the Packers) where Brady would have relied heavily on Rob Gronkowski,” said Ballentine. “He tried to do the same with Cameron Brate, who was second on the team in targets with six. But Brate hasn’t proven to be that kind of weapon for the quarterback. He has just 11 targets on the season, catching seven for 68 yards.”
Brate Not Producing as Bucs’ Starting Tight End
The 31-year-old tight end has received the vast majority of snaps at tight end (71 percent of snaps) with Kyle Rudolph not making his season debut until the loss to the Packers. Meanwhile, rookies Cade Otton and Ko Kieft have played minimal roles on offense, with Otton catching just one pass for four yards (despite playing 49 percent of snaps over the first two games) and Kieft mainly playing a special teams role (46 percent of special teams snaps compared to 29 percent of offensive snaps).
As noted by Ballentine, the Buccaneers need a more “dynamic” pass-catching tight end, something that Brate likely isn’t capable of.
“Whether it’s rookie Cade Otton when he returns or Kyle Rudolph working his way onto the active roster, the Bucs need a more dynamic pass-catching tight end to make this offense dangerous,” says Ballentine.
Brate has never started more than 10 games in a single season and he hasn’t started more than eight games in a season since 2016. The nine-year veteran tight end posted his best campaign during that season, catching 57 passes on 81 targets for 660 yards and eight touchdowns.
However, he has never come close to replicating that production since, failing to exceed 36 receptions and 311 yards in a single season since 2017. Brate has also failed to crack playing more than 48 percent of offensive snaps since the 2017 season.
Bucs’ Backup Tight Ends Unlikely to Unseat Brate
In other words, Brate is filling a role that he’s not suitable for. It’s a major reason why Tampa Bay signed Rudolph prior to the start of the season. The problem is, he’s had a minimal impact early on during his Bucs tenure, catching just one pass for 12 yards in just nine snaps versus the Packers.
The issue is, there is no quick fix for the Buccaneers. Tampa Bay could opt to bench Brate, but there is no sign that the 32-year-old Rudolph will make any bigger of an impact (he was inactive the first two games) at this stage of his career.
Meanwhile, Kieft is primarily a blocking tight end. Otton could eventually emerge as that guy, but it’s probably too early in his career to expect a sizable impact.
Unless Rob Gronkowski returns, the Buccaneers may have no choice but to continue to start Brate, while giving a larger share of the offensive snaps to the backups.