Don't look now, but Cameron Brate
is making his presence felt. He has caught a touchdown pass in three straight games, and with five touchdowns this season, is tied for the most touchdowns from tight ends in the league.
On his touchdown against the Bears, a 10-yard strike from Jameis Winston, Brate knew the ball was coming his way. His response to that was, "I didn't trip or anything."
As ESPN.com's Jenna Laine noted, Brate's performance was much more than that Sunday. He was a perfect 7-for-7, catching every pass thrown his way on a day when receiver Mike Evans saw more double coverage than he has all season and the Bears smothered the Bucs' ground game, holding them to 80 rushing yards -- their third-lowest rushing total of the season.
The Bucs have also been without their No. 2 receiver, Vincent Jackson, and another top Winston target, Russell Shepard (who will return this week).
"When it's time for him to step up, he always finds a way," said Winston, who believes Brate is one of the most underrated tight ends in the league. "He’s always having a good game. He’s definitely one of our top targets."
The chemistry between Winston and Brate began last season amid similar circumstances -- with Jackson and Louis Murphy sidelined with injury, along with tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who has since been traded to the Jets. Brate had been waived by the Bucs earlier in the season and was re-signed from the Saints' practice squad. By the time training camp rolled around, Brate had emerged as the team's top tight end.
Winston said Brate's success is because of his work ethic. "Cam is in there as long as I'm in there," Winston said. "Cam is [staying] after practice, working on his craft, day after day, working on his body, day after day. Hard work pays off and he’s definitely a hard worker."
In the past four weeks, Brate has managed 18 catches. Only three other tight ends in the league have more, and none have scored as many times as Brate. His five touchdowns are three off the club record for tight ends held by Jimmie Giles. He is tied for second on the team with 35 catches. As a result, he now ranks seventh at the position in our Player Performance Rankings and as ESPN's Mike Clay noted, Brate has managed seven straight top-20 fantasy weeks.
Eventually the world has to take notice, right? Brate's friends have, which is a start. They were blowing up his phone after Sunday's game.
"I'm trying to get my [fantasy] ownership up a little bit there," Brate said with a smile. "I told my friends that they gotta give me some kickbacks if they win now."