Tight End Blues In The Red Zone

May 31st, 2023

Cade Otton has big shoes to fill.

Buccaneers tight ends combined were targeted 22 times in the red zone during the 2022 regular season.

That’s four more times than team red-zone target leader Russell Gage.

So what happened on those 22 throws? Well, only nine were caught. That’s a sad 41 percent mark. The nine catches resulted in 4 touchdowns and just 40 yards.

Consider that Cameron Brate (not Gronk) caught 13 of 22 red zone targets for 104 yards and 4 touchdowns during the 2021 regular season. So single-handedly that outperformed all Bucs tight ends last season.

Here’s the 2022 regular season breakdown of the Bucs’ four tight ends in the red zone.

Ko Kieft 1-1, 5 yards, TD
Kyle Rudolph, 1-2, 8 yards, TD
Cameron Brate, 1-4, 8 yards, no TD
Cade Otton, 6-15, 19 yards, 2 TD

(Tight ends were active in the beating delivered by Dallas in the playoffs. Brate caught Brady’s final TD pass, an eight-yard red zone throw, and kept the valuable ball.)

Joe can’t say the Bucs must get a lot more out of their tight ends this season, but it sure would be nice. That would be a quite a bonus if it’s complemented by a running game that skyrockets from worst in the NFL last season to, say, 18th-best in 2023.

17 Responses to “Tight End Blues In The Red Zone”

  1. sasquatch Says:

    If we’re playing more 2 TEs and giving more run looks in the red zone, we need those TEs to be more productive as receivers down there. Pretty sure that was one of the things they liked most about Payne Durham.

  2. Brandon Says:

    Wow, sounds like the biggest problem might have been WHO was throwing the ball. Takes some zip and a nut sack to get the ball fired through the tiny openings in the red zone… Sackless Tom Brady (led league in lowest sack percentage) might have been the biggest culprit for our redzone woes.

  3. Dewey Selmon Says:

    Payne Durham is going to turn some heads. He’s a big lumbering route runner so shorten his routes(red zone) and let him out muscle the DB/S for end zone pass attempts/receptions.

  4. Rayjay1122 Says:

    Opponents are going to feel the Payne when we are in the red zone.

  5. robert Says:

    I beleive he will be the Bucs next Gronk. maybe not the status of Gronk, but be a definitive red zone threat, reliable outlet for the QB and solid blocker.

  6. Crickett Baker Says:

    New guy Whitehead, Jr. seemed to talk a good game in his recent interview. I haven’t heard much about him in practice, though.

  7. Chris@Apple Roof Cleaning Tampa Says:

    I sure HOPE we got rid of Kyle Rudolph ?
    Licht gave Brate that stupid Big Contract, how did that work out ?
    I think we will be OK with Cade Otten and Payne.

  8. Dooley Says:

    Gronk was sorely missed, but plz for the love of everything Tampa Bay Buccaneers stop with the “Otton plays like Gronk” comparisons. Nobody plays like Gronk, that’s why he’s counting down to Canton while Otton is a 2nd year player trying to expand his role in a brand new offense.

  9. Mike S Says:

    Dooley I’d say Otton plays more like Brate. That is the much more accurate comparison.

    Payne looks more Gronk-like, but there’s only one Gronk. The guy is a hulk who wrecked house in the NFL.

    There will be no “Next Gronk” the whole thing is ridiculous.

  10. D-Rome Says:

    Yikes, I thought the TE unit was better than that. Guess not.

  11. Dooley Says:

    @Mike S

    Agreed, could just be my respect for Gronk not just as a TE but a dominant force in this league, but at the same time it sets really lofty expectations for a TE who played well more often than he made boneheaded plays as a rookie. Best thing about Otton as a pass-catcher is that even when defenders close in on him he’s usually fighting or falling forward for extra yards. Compared directly to Gronk, Otton doesn’t play the role of a 6th Olmen as well as Gronk did pretty much his entire career.

  12. SOEbuc Says:

    Bring the Payne!

  13. Jeffrey Brodbeck Says:

    Bucs red zone woes were not just the performance of TE’s. In years past throwing the ball up high to Evens and letting jump up and grab it was unstoppable. Last year Brady never threw it up to Evans in the endzone.

  14. Voice of Truth Says:

    TE was and really still is a large hole – top 3 players are 2nd year and rookie – none are special

    Almost as shallow as the QB and RB rooms

  15. garro Says:

    Saying it was just the TEs is oversimplifying it. However Brate’s stats fell off the cliff last year. Brady could not or would not go his way. Not sure which it was, maybe both. Not sure how Brate, who was a weapon in the red zone became a non factor.

    The Bucs as a whole were not as good in the red zone as in past years and we all know the reasons. Penalties were a huge problem. O Line could not block for run or pass, and Penalties. Most of the year Evans was the only real WR threat due to injuries and because of that he was neutralized for the most part. No running game, and thus no effective play action… Made it easy for the LBs. Last but not least …Leftnut.

  16. Fred McNeil Says:

    I wanna see this Payne kid work in the red zone.

  17. steele Says:

    Many factors involved.

    But purely in terms of TE ability and style, there is no Gronk or anyone remotely Gronk-like on the roster. That was the problem many of us screamed about last offseason, when they did not draft or FA a complete TE. Passed on many available TEs. Kyle Rudolph was washed. Otton is much more a move type, closer to Brate. Kieft is a hell of a blocker, surprised with some pass catching, but is limited.

    I still don’t see a great TE on the team. Canales’ new system will have to account for that.