Dolphins OC: We need 'big plays' from tight ends

The Adam Gase era launched with a whimper in the Meadowlands last week. The Dolphins didn't have a first down in their first four drives against the Giants and Ryan Tannehill spent more time on his back than in the red zone.

The Dolphins are only one semi-meaningless game into their 2016 campaign, but offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen has already targeted where Miami's missing offensive production needs to come from: the tight end position.

"We need some big plays out of that room," Christensen told the Miami Herald. "That's where your matchups are on third down. They've got to win and we've got to have some good stuff for them. We're not there yet."

In that pressure cooker of a tight end room are Jordan Cameron, Dion Sims and a slew of other roster hopefuls, all of whom likely feel underutilized by the previous regime.

After finding some success in Cleveland, Cameron signed with Miami in 2015 only to tally 386 yards and three touchdowns in a full 16-game slate; he caught just 50 percent of the 70 passes thrown to him, the second-lowest percentage in the league among tight ends.

Despite being relegated to a glorified blocker in 2015, Cameron agreed to a $1.5 million pay cut in his second year with Miami partly because of the arrival of Gase.

"One of my good friends, Julius Thomas, who played for (Gase), said, 'You've got to play for this guy,'" Cameron said. "He does a good job of putting (tight ends) in spots to succeed."

In Gase's three seasons as offensive coordinator -- two with Denver, one with Chicago -- he has had consistent, if not dominant, tight end play. While Miami's tight ends combined for 513 receiving yards and four scores on 53 receptions last season, the Bears' tight ends -- Martellus Bennett and Zach Miller -- caught 87 balls for 878 yards and eight touchdowns.

Gase saw even more success out of his tight ends in Denver. In 2013 and 2014, Julius Thomas and Jacob Tamme caught a combined 142 balls for 1,570 yards and 27 total touchdowns, remaining a fixture in Denver's offense. It didn't hurt to have a top-five quarterback, Peyton Manning, tossing them the rock, which may just be the issue in Miami.

To his credit, Gase is tempering expectations about Cameron's role in the offense.

"I don't want to predict anything," Gase said Tuesday. "I feel like what's going on with him right now is that there's a little bit of a learning curve for him. We went through some struggles there in the spring and a little bit at the beginning of camp. The thing about the tight end position is that there's a lot of responsibility you have. It's just a lot on his plate. I went through the same growing pains with Julius Thomas. It wasn't like that thing happened overnight."

Cameron won't be a supernatural force in Miami's offense like Rob Gronkowski is in New England, but he deserves better than to be used primarily as a blocker, especially in Gase's "dink-and-dunk" offense. A tight end should be a quarterback's best friend, so that when his star wide receivers -- ahem, Jarvis Landry and DeVante Parker -- get shadowed, he has a security blanket open right at the marker.

Cameron can be that guy, but the impetus is on him to prove it in the preseason.

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