Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Cam Brate Continues to Produce

Buccaneer Cameron Brate is emerging as one of the most consistently productive tight ends in the NFL…Plus, Kwon Alexander in elite company, and more.

Pictures of Cameron Brate during the Bucs' game against the Rams.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Cameron Brate caught five passes for 67 yards in Sunday's loss to the Denver Broncos, with four of those five receptions going for at least 13 yards and a first down. In his last two games, Brate has hauled in 10 passes for 113 yards and two touchdowns.

Though he began the season in something of a time-share with the Buccaneers' other primary pass-catching tight end, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, the release of that latter pass-catcher has increased the size of Brate's role. Even before that change, he had been an obvious part of the attack from the beginning of the season, catching at least three passes in every game so far. Brate is one of seven tight ends who have at least three receptions in every game this year.

NFL Tight Ends with at Least 3 Receptions in Every Game, 2016

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It's worth noting that Brate is the only player in that list who did not enter the league via the draft. An undrafted free agent out of Harvard in 2014, Brate has played in 23 games with seven starts and recorded 40 receptions for 464 yards and five scores. Ebron and Olsen are former first-round draft picks, Kelce and Reed were selected in the third round, Pitta was a fourth-rounder and Miller a sixth-rounder.

Brate is the first Buccaneer tight end to catch at least three passes in each of a season's first three games since Kellen Winslow did so in 2010. The only other time a Tampa Bay tight end has done that was in 1985, when Jerry Bell accomplished the feat.

Though it's obviously early to establish a reliable pace, Brate hits the season's quarter pole with 16 catches for 159 yards and two touchdowns. If he did maintain that pace, he would finish the campaign with a 64-636-8 line. No Tampa Bay tight end has ever finished a season with at least 60 catches, 600 yards and six touchdowns. Only two others have had a 50-500-5 season, with Winslow pulling it off twice.

Buccaneer Tight Ends with 50 Receptions, 500 Yards and Five TDs in a Season

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By the way, Brate is already among the leading NFL pass-catchers ever to come out of Harvard. The only former Harvard players with more receptions or yards than the Bucs' tight end are Pat McInally, a former punter and wide receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals, and current Baltimore Ravens fullback Kyle Juszczyk.

All-Time Leading NFL Pass-Catchers from Harvard

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Brate and Juszczyk, former Crimson teammates, could be fighting for the school's all-time NFL touchdown receptions mark for years to come.

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WR Mike Evans caught five passes for 59 yards but saw his streak of consecutive games with a touchdown reception snapped at three. That fell one short of the team record, which he shares with Mike Williams, Antonio Bryant, Joey Galloway and Bruce Hill.

Evans still pushed his 2016 season totals to 26 receptions for 360 yards and three touchdowns, ranking fourth (tied), sixth and fifth (tied) in the NFL in those three categories through four weeks. The third-year pro has the third-highest receiving yardage total through four games in team history.

Most Receiving Yards, First Four Games, Buccaneers

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Evans is on pace to record 104 receptions for 1,440 yards and 12 touchdowns.The team records in those categories are 106 (Keyshawn Johnson, 2001), 1,422 (Mark Carrier, 1989) and 12 (Evans, 2014).

Evans' 5-59-0 line from Sunday's game against the Broncos was actually his least productive of the season so far. He has at least five receptions in every game this year, becoming just the fourth Buccaneer and second Tampa Bay wide receiver to do so in the first four games of a season. Keyshawn Johnson had at least five grabs in each of the first four games of the 2001 campaign. The others to accomplish the feat were tight end Jerry Bell in 1985 and running back Michael Pittman in 2002.

Evans has been one of the most consistent producers in the NFL through the first quarter of this season. He is one of only five players in the league with at least five catches in every game so far, including one of only three wide receivers to do so. He is one of only four players with at least five catches and 50 receiving yards in every game so far this season.

NFL Players with At Least 5 Receptions & 50 Receiving Yards in Every Game

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LB Kwon Alexander recorded one of the Buccaneers' four sacks against the Broncos on Sunday, his second QB takedown of the season to go along with seven tackles, one tackle for loss and two quarterback hits. Through one quarter of the season, Alexander leads the Buccaneers with 38 tackles, including 34 solo stops, and has also recorded two sacks, four quarterback hits, one interception and one pass defensed.

Those 34 solo tackles put Alexander in a tie with Carolina LB Luke Kuechly for second in the NFL, only one behind league leader Zach Brown of Buffalo (35). His 38 stops overall are tied for seventh.

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Alexander joins Houston linebacker Bernardrick McKinney and Seattle linebacker K.J. Wright as the only players in the NFL who have already recorded at least 30 tackles and at least two sacks. He is the only player in the NFL who can claim that combination AND at least one interception.**

Alexander did not play in the last four games of his 2015 rookie campaign due to a suspension, which means he has just completed the first 16-game stretch of his career, approximating a full single season. In those 16 games he has already recorded 131 tackles, 5.0 sacks, three interceptions, 10 passes defensed, 11 tackles for loss, nine run stuffs, nine quarterback hits, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.

Even with the four missed games, Alexander has put up one of the most robust defensive stat lines in the NFL since the start of the 2015 season. He is one of only five players with at least five sacks and at least three interceptions in that span, and his numbers in other categories such as TFLs and passes defensed compare favorably with the rest of the group.

NFL Players with 5+ Sacks and 3+ Interceptions, 2015-16

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Punter Bryan Anger continues to excel on his new team. The former Jacksonville Jaguar has posted a 47.5-yard gross punting average and a 43.3-yard net, with nine of his 22 punts downed inside the 20. Anger ranks fifth in the NFL in net punting average and tied for fifth in punts inside-the-20.

Against the Broncos on Sunday, Anger punted seven times and finished with a gross of 46.6 and a net of 42.0. He is the first punter in Buccaneers history to record a single-game net average of 42.0 or better in four straight games. Anger's longest punt against Denver was a 59-yarder, which means he has logged at least one punt of 55 or more yards in every game this season. The last Buccaneer punter to do that in four straight outings was Michael Koenen in 2012, from Weeks 10-13.

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Odds & Ends

  • Tampa Bay's defense has performed relatively well on third downs through the first quarter of the season, holding opponents to a 34.0% conversion rate that ranks sixth in the NFL. The Bucs have been particularly good in the second halves of games, allowing only six conversions in 23 attempts, a success rate of 26.1%.
  • The Buccaneers' defense also ranks fourth in the NFL in opponent yards per carry after holding the Broncos to an average of 2.8 yards on 32 totes. Overall, Tampa Bay is allowing 3.27 yards per carry; the league average through four weeks is right on 4.00. This strong work against the run is despite the fact that opposing teams have handed off 117 times against the Buccaneers through four weeks, the fourth-most against any team in the NFL. Even with that high number of carries, Tampa Bay opponents have managed only nine runs of 10 or more yards, tied for eighth-lowest in the league. Only 7.7% of runs against the Bucs' defense have hit double digits, the sixth-lowest percentage in the NFL.
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