You would think training camp would be the time all catchers of the football would get their share of touches. After all, the coaching staff controls both offense and defense, the situational drills, etc.
Alas, sometimes, even in training camp, the ball isn’t distributed as equitably as graham crackers and juice at preschool snack time. That’s why the Dolphins getting the ball to the tight ends, especially free agent signee Jordan Cameron, counted as one of the highlights of Friday night’s scrimmage at FIU Stadium.
After the scrimmage, Cameron said he likes the way training camp has gone so far.
“The tight ends haven’t been getting the ball much, but we’ve been working on all the stuff we need to get us better with the blocking and learning the installation and getting the little things down that really makes the difference in a game,” he said.
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One of the big things that makes the difference in any football game is red zone touchdown production. At the college level and at the NFL level, that translates as “tight ends.” When Rob Gronkowski is healthy, New England makes getting touchdowns in the red zone look like shooting free throws. When Gronkowski is out or hobbled, the Patriots still make it look like shooting free throws — Shaquille O’Neal shooting free throws.
The Dolphins ranked 21st in the NFL last season in getting touchdowns from the red zone. So, it’s not surprising, that although tight end Charles Clay caught enough passes (58) for enough yards (605) to get a nice free agent deal this offseason from Buffalo, he caught only three touchdown passes.
Although the Dolphins hope Cameron adds big-play potential out of the tight end spot — one of his two 2014 touchdown receptions came from 81 yards — they need catches from in close just as much. In 2013, Cameron averaged only 11.5 yards per catch, but caught seven touchdown passes.
On Friday night, he caught one short touchdown pass at the back of the end zone and ran under a 26-yard floater to make a stumbling grab in the left corner of the end zone.
“Honestly, we try to do work in practice,” Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill said. “We don’t script out plays against the defenses that we see in practice. We just go out and call the plays and go. We’ve tried it in practice to get him a few good looks, but it hasn’t worked out for whatever reason. It just seems like [defensive coordinator] Coach [Kevin] Coyle has got us on, but [Friday night] to be able to get him a couple of balls in the end zone … .”
Dolphins coach Joe Philbin noticed.
“I was kidding him, some days the ball comes your direction more often than others,” Philbin said after the scrimmage. “It seemed like [Friday], there were some nice hookups with him, but I’m really pleased with him overall. I like the command that he has of our system, he fits real well in the locker room, guys like him and he likes being here. So I think it’s been really good.”
Cameron said he sees the tight end role as, “right now, whatever we can do to help this team — get open, block, do what we’ve got to do. We have a very good unit. All of us work well together. We’ll find our niche. It’s a matter of timing and working on the chemistry now.”