The tight end is a wonderful weapon for NFL offenses. These guys are generally a matchup problem for defenses because they are both big and fast -- too big for defensive backs to cover, too fast for linebackers to cover.
And when teams realize this, their red zone offenses improve. They're third-down offenses improve. Their offenses simply get better all around.
When the quarterback and the tight end and the offensive scheme and the play-caller are of one accord, the tight end becomes a great asset. Think of the Patriots with Rob Gronkowski. Think of Carolina with Greg Olsen. Think of the New Orleans Saints with Jimmy Graham and now Ben Watson. Think of the Bengals with Tyler Eifert, who has 12 touchdowns this season.
Think of the Chargers traditionally with Phillip Rivers to Antonio Gates.
Tights ends. Major weapons.
But when something is amiss and teams do not take advantage of a gifted tight end, it begs scrutiny because failing to cash in on such a potential matchup problem speaks to the talent, the offensive system, the coaching, everything. It is a broken situation and the entire offense suffers. Think of the Patriots without Rob Gronkowski. Think of Jimmy Graham in Seattle.
Think of Ryan Tannehill and Jordan Cameron and the Miami Dolphins.
Something is amiss here, folks.
Cameron has 26 catches for 306 yards, which means he's averaging 11.8 yards per reception. He has two touchdowns.
And that's bad because the former Pro Bowl tight end came to the Dolphins with credentials that suggest things should be much, much better than that. Remember that in 2013, Cameron was third among all NFL tight ends with 80 catches.
Remember that in 2014, even amid an injury-plagued season, Cameron led all NFL tight ends with at least 20 catches with a per catch average of 17.7 yards.
And remember he did all this while playing in Cleveland, which, last I looked, is not lately the home of great quarterback play or genius offensive game-planning.
So this is an issue (one of several) with the Miami offense in 2015.
“I want more out of Jordan," Dolphins interim coach Dan Campbell said. "I don’t disagree with that. We look for ways to get the ball to him and all of our tight ends for that matter, get some balls to Dion (Sims) as well. I think a lot of it early in the year was just about where we were at. We were in max-protection, which means if you do it out of 11-personnel (one tight end) that’s Jordan who has to block so you can get Jarvis Landry and the other two wide receivers down the field. We would like to incorporate more, there’s no denying that. I see it too and I would.”
Campbell seems to be putting a good portion of this on Cameron. And that is fair because it is up to him to be better. But that cannot be all. And the thing is everyone wants to do it because the head coach is a former NFL tight end and until two months ago was the team's tight ends coach, so if he wants it, everyone does.
Obviously, Ryan Tannehill wants it. I asked him if he likes throwing seam passes, a Cameron route strength.
“I love our tight ends," Tannehill said. "They’re big targets, they’re athletic, they catch the ball well in traffic and they can stretch the field down in those seams.”
Good. So why isn't it happening? Why are Dolphins tight ends, particularly Cameron, not major offensive weapons?
“I don’t know that’s a good question," Tannehill said. "I think that’s something that we took a step back and looked at last week is ‘Hey, we want to get our tight ends involved more.’ We have good athletes, good players and we’ve had a few opportunities, but we need to get them involved more. They’re not showing up like we want them to, like we think they should and I think that’s our fault as an offense of not getting them involved as much as we can. That’s something we’re looking forward to do over the next four games."
And here is where I think the offense is a problem. I see Cameron running a lot of shallow cross and quick outs. I'm sure he loves the five-yard gains.
But I don't see many hitches, many speed outs or many turn ins. I don't see him lined up outside and taking a safety deep very often -- you know just for kicks because he runs a 4.5 at 260 pounds.
I'm pretty certain Cameron could probably run those routes if asked.
(I hate this offense).