DraftBrowns.com Editor: Brendan Leister
When the Cleveland Browns selected USC tight end and former college basketball player Jordan Cameron with the 102nd pick of the 2011 NFL Draft, they made the selection with the future in mind. This was extremely apparent during Cameron’s first two seasons as he produced a mere 26 catches for 259 yards and one touchdown in 22 games. Cameron always showed the athletic ability to be the type of mismatch that teams are looking for at the tight end position in today’s NFL, but the opportunities just simply were not there for him to prove his worth.
With the hiring of Rob Chudzinski as head coach and Norv Turner as offensive coordinator, it seemed as though the 2013 season may finally be Cameron’s chance to break out. Chudzinski and Turner each have a wealth of experience developing and maximizing the talents of athletic tight ends in the past and Cameron’s skill set looked to be a perfect fit in their vertical passing scheme.
Thus far, Cameron has exceeded all expectations. His 50 pass receptions ranks seventh amongst all pass receivers, his six touchdowns ranks 10th amongst all pass receivers, and his 600 receiving yards ranks 18th amongst all pass receivers through the first nine weeks of the 2013 season. On top of all of that, Cameron has produced seven gains of at least 20 yards and one gain of at least 40 yards. When you also take into account the fact that Cameron has been attracting much more attention from defenses in recent weeks and that he has been wide open and missed on a number of occasions throughout the season, it is easy to see why Cameron is widely regarded as not only one of the most improved players on the Cleveland Browns roster, but in the entire NFL.
Week One: 22-yard Acrobatic Catch vs Miami Dolphins
On this particular play, Jordan Cameron is lined up as a split end to the right side of the formation. If we look at the defense’s pre-snap alignment, we can make an educated guess about what coverage they may be playing. Based on the single-high safety in the middle of the field and the cornerbacks aligned about eight yards off the line of scrimmage with their backs turned to the sideline and their eyes to the inside toward the quarterback, we can anticipate that the defense is likely to play some type of three-deep zone.
Due to Cameron’s explosive outside release off the line of scrimmage, the left cornerback must give him a cushion in case Cameron attempts to run past him on a Go route. Once Cameron gets about 15 yards downfield, he breaks down and comes wide open on a Dig route. However, quarterback Brandon Weeden is looking to the left side of the formation and does not notice Cameron coming open over the middle. After holding the ball for a few seconds, Weeden leaves the pocket and scrambles to his right. Cameron realizes this and immediately runs deep and at an angle toward the sideline to give Weeden an option. Due to the cornerback following Cameron to the inside on the Dig route, Cameron is able to run past him in the opposite direction and separate with ease. Weeden recognizes that Cameron is open down the field and he throws the ball. Cameron leaps in the air, fully extends, and secures the catch through the ground before being touched down by the cornerback. The play results in a 22-yard gain.
Above is a still image of Cameron laying out to make the acrobatic catch. There is no doubt that his basketball background contributes to his excellent body control, incredibly strong hands, and ability to consistently focus and make contested catches in traffic.
Week Two: Beautiful Play Design and Route Running for a 53-Yard Gain vs Baltimore Ravens
Cameron lines up as the right in-line tight end on this play. The defense looks as though it is going to play some type of combo-coverage with the right cornerback matched up in man to man coverage against the X receiver (Travis Benjamin) and the rest of the defense playing zone. Due to the single-high safety in the middle of the field, the left cornerback aligned 10 yards off the line of scrimmage, and the nickel defender lined up directly in the middle of the Z receiver (Greg Little) and Cameron with his eyes inside toward the quarterback, it looks as though the corner and safety may each be responsible for deep halves while the nickel defender covers the flat.
At the snap of the ball, Cameron explodes out of his stance and runs down the seam of the defense. At the same time, Greg Little runs directly at the left cornerback. As soon as Little gets 12 yards downfield, he breaks off his route toward the sideline on an Out route. The cornerback breaks on Little’s route and leaves the area behind him completely vacated. Cameron breaks off his route once he gets 17 yards downfield and runs diagonally toward the sideline on a Corner route. Because the cornerback stepped up to defend Little on the Out, the safety must come over from the middle of the field and hope to make a play on Cameron before it is too late. Brandon Weeden scrambles toward the line of scrimmage to his right and stares down Cameron before finally throwing the ball. The inaccurate throw forces Cameron to come to a complete stop before catching the pass. By this time, the safety has made it all the way over from the middle of the field. Cameron turns back toward the inside and gains 20 yards after the catch before getting chased down from behind. The play resulted in a 53-yard gain, but if the ball had been thrown accurately and on time, it is likely that this would have resulted in a 60-yard touchdown.
Week Three: Corner Route Touchdown vs Minnesota Vikings
This time, the Browns come out in a Double Tight Left formation with Cameron and backup tight end Gary Barnidge to the left side of the formation. Prior to the snap, Barnidge motions to an H-back position between the right guard and tackle. This leaves Cameron isolated on the left side of the formation. Due to the two deep safeties and the cornerbacks aligned five or less yards off the line of scrimmage with their eyes inside toward the quarterback, it looks as though the defense will play some form of Cover Two.
At the snap, Cameron releases to the outside and explodes off the line of scrimmage. Quarterback Brian Hoyer takes his post-snap look at the defense as he takes his drop and recognizes that they are indeed playing Cover Two. Due to the fact that Cameron is running a Corner route, the Browns should have a matchup in their favor with Cameron isolated one on one with the safety. Hoyer recognizes this and throws a perfect pass to the back corner of the end zone. Cameron runs past the safety with ease, catches the pass cleanly, and gets both feet in for the 19-yard score.
Week Three: Game Winning Touchdown vs Minnesota Vikings
With the game on the line, the Browns line up in Trips Right with Cameron isolated as a split end to the left side of the formation. It appears that the defense will play Cover Zero (man to man with no safety help) due to the fact that there are seven defenders at the line of scrimmage and the defensive backs each have their backs turned to the end zone with their eyes on the receivers across from them.
Cameron is matched up one on one with safety Harrison Smith. Smith is widely regarded as one of the best safeties in the NFL, but Cameron has a three inch and 30 lb. size advantage on him. For Smith to negate the size advantage and disrupt Cameron’s route, he needs to be physical with Cameron at the line of scrimmage. At the snap of the ball, Cameron sets up Smith with a stutter step and releases to the outside on a Fade route so quickly that Smith is unable to get a hand on him. Brian Hoyer immediately recognizes the mismatch and throws the ball toward the back corner of the end zone. Cameron whips his head around to track the ball, leaps in the air, and catches the ball over his outside shoulder while maintaining possession through the ground for the seven-yard touchdown.
Week Eight: Winning in the Slot for a 14-yard gain vs Kansas City Chiefs
This time, Jordan Cameron is lined up in the right slot. Based on the fact that it is third and long, there are two deep safeties, and the cornerbacks have their backs toward the end zone with their eyes on the receivers across from them, we can conclude that the defense is most likely in Cover Two Man. ”Two-Man” is one of the most difficult defenses to pass against and it is the go-to defense for most defensive coordinators when defending third and long.
At the snap, Cameron releases to the inside and continues toward the middle of the formation as if he is going to run all the way across the formation on a Drag route. As Cameron does this, the other receivers run vertical routes to clear out the coverage and isolate Cameron against the nickel defender in the middle of the field. Although the nickel defender has excellent position on Cameron initially, he does not realize that Cameron is about to turn his route back to the outside and run a Whip route. Once Cameron gets to the near hash, he plants his right foot in the ground, opens up his hips toward quarterback Jason Campbell, and leaves the defender in his dust as he makes his way back out toward the sideline. Campbell recognizes that Cameron has gained separation and he quickly throws an accurate pass to ensure that Cameron is able to gain yards after the catch. Cameron catches the pass in stride, accelerates upfield, and gets brought down after a 14-yard gain and first down.
All in all, the sky is the limit for Jordan Cameron. With his versatile skill set and a coaching staff that makes a conscious effort to get the tight end involved in the passing game, Cameron has a very good chance at producing more than 1,000 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns this season. If Cameron continues to work hard and improve on the finer details of playing the position, he has a chance to be one of the best tight ends in the NFL for a long time.