In a nod to a hard-working undrafted free agent, and a warning to a highly touted second-round pick, Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter confirmed a shakeup atop the team's tight end depth chart Wednesday.
Cameron Brate, a Harvard graduate who signed with the Bucs in 2014, only to bounce onto New Orleans' roster last year before returning to Florida, is the team's starting tight end. For those with an eye on the Bucs, it seems the proclamation has been a long time coming. Brate came on strong this offseason and is flashing early in his second go-round with the team.
"I don't think it's any big secret that Cam's been working with the first group," head coach Dirk Koetter said, via The Tampa Bay Times. "We're deep at tight end and Cam's at the top of the depth right now. (Austin Seferian-Jenkins) is working hard, working at it. Austin's trying to get better every day. ... Austin's working at it and that's all he can do right now. He's just got to work. That's all anybody that's fighting for a job can do. The guys that are playing the best are going to play.
"Catching up for some guys is knowing what they're doing. Catching up for other guys is you've got to play better, and he falls into that category."
The immediate question is obvious: Where does this leave Seferian-Jenkins?
According to several reports, Seferian-Jenkins has been splitting out wide as a receiver during the early days of Bucs camp, though this is likely just the product of typical camp cross-training. Seferian-Jenkins was dismissed from the field last month during a minicamp practice, though the team described it as a "wake-up call," according to NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport. He was not lining up correctly, drawing Koetter's ire.
"I don't worry about Cameron Brate," Seferian-Jenkins said. "I worry about myself and doing what the coaches tell me to do. You know what? If Cameron Brate is No. 1, that's great. If it's best for the team, I want what's best for the team. I want to win as many games as I can. That's what's most important. Whatever role I have is whatever role I have."
With Jameis Winston entering a crucial second season and running back Doug Martin entering the second phase of his career, a good, knowledgeable tight end can make all the difference. Just like Tampa Bay was not taking chances in letting Koetter go somewhere else this offseason, Koetter is not taking chances with his pass catchers and run blockers.