Throughout OTAs and the early portion of training camp, Dolphins first-year coach Adam Gase has been challenging his players to improve their game.
Play harder. Play faster. Play smarter.
Tight end Jordan Cameron has taken the challenge to heart.
Fresh off a lackluster debut season with the Dolphins, Cameron wants to make a statement to his new coach — and to himself — with the regular season less than a month away.
“It’s a fresh start,” said Cameron, who is heading into the final year of his two-year contract and took a $1.5 million paycut this offseason. “Last year’s in the past and we’re focused on getting better.”
Cameron’s first act with the Dolphins was a far cry from what he can do at his best.
In 16 games, Cameron caught just 35 of the 70 passes thrown his way, a meager 50 percent efficiency. On those 35 catches, he recorded 386 yards and three touchdowns.
Some of that can be attributed to a decrease in targets. Some can be attributed to a lack of on-field chemistry with starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill in their first year together.
Regardless, Cameron wants to show that last season was a fluke and that he can be the pass-catching tight end that broke out with a Pro Bowl-caliber performance for the Cleveland Browns in 2013 (80 catches, 917 yards, seven touchdowns).
“Each day is a focus on working on your craft and getting better at your job,” Cameron said.
And if Cameron is going to become a threat on offense again, Gase is a coach who can get it done.
In three years as an offensive coordinator —2015 with the Chicago Bears, 2013-14 with the Denver Broncos — the top two tight ends in Gase’s scheme averaged a combined 76 catches, 816 yards and 11.7 touchdowns per year.
“He’s very smart. He’s a great offensive mind and knows a lot of football,” Cameron said. “He always has two cents to put in and it’s something that when you listen to him and you apply it, it translates. When you get the confidence from a coach like that, you play better.”
Earlier in the offseason, Gase said he planned to experiment with Cameron and the rest of the tight ends, spreading them out to different parts of the field and seeing where he can find mismatches.
“If we can keep moving guys around and giving them options and different types of routes, different types of concepts, different types of runs, different guys running the ball, different guys catching the ball, the harder you can make it for the defense to game plan each week, the better it is for us,” Gase said.
Cameron has been one of those moving pieces.
That has been evident during training camp. During red-zone drills, the 6-5, 265-pound tight end took snaps from all over the field.
On one play, he’s lined up next to a tackle, shedding off a defensive lineman before running a slant route. The next, Cameron was motioned to the slot, attempting to edge out the linebacker covering him. And on another, he stayed back to block, adding an extra body to slow down the Dolphins ferocious defensive line.
“Just make plays,” Cameron said. “[Gase] is putting me in positions to win. It’s completely on me.”