BEREA: Tight end Jordan Cameron slashed across the middle of the field, reached to his side and grabbed a pass from quarterback Colt McCoy.
Later in a goal-line drill, Cameron caught a play-action pass from McCoy over his shoulder in the back corner of the end zone.
Those plays were the highlights of Cameron’s performance on Monday and examples of why coach Pat Shurmur considers him one of the Browns’ most improved players. Cameron, who’s heading into his second NFL season, is confident the strides he has made will pay off.
“I’ve been making plays against the No. 1 defense,” Cameron said. “So making plays against anyone in the NFL, it gives you more confidence, and it’s all about confidence, especially for me, being that I’m new at the position. I think the confidence and knowing what you’re doing [will help] more than anything else. If you know what you’re doing, you can play faster, and that’s what I’m working on right now. But I do have the confidence that I can make plays out here and be a playmaker in this league.”
The Browns picked Cameron in the fourth round (102nd overall) of last year’s draft. He played basketball at the University of Southern California during the 2008-09 season and spent the 2008 and 2009 football seasons as a reserve wide receiver before switching to tight end and starting one game in 2010.
As a rookie, Cameron didn’t have the benefit of a normal offseason because of the NFL lockout. Last season, he appeared in eight games and started the final two when the Browns opened with double-tight end formations.
In other words, playing football — especially at tight end — is still relatively new to him.
“You have to practice it and play it to improve at it,” Shurmur said. “He was a guy that didn’t play a lot of football in college, but showed us the skill and ability to be a good receiver. Now when you line up at the end of the line of scrimmage, you have got to get used to controlling your body in blocking situations, you have to learn how to release when somebody’s basically tackling you, those types of things, getting a feel for playing the game. And I think once he gets that going, I think his development will go like this.”
Shurmur ended his statement by motioning toward the sky with his thumb. Cameron’s progression already appears to be heading in that direction. With tight end Evan Moore out with an undisclosed injury, Cameron worked with the first-team offense Monday in two-tight end sets.
“Whatever opportunities they’re giving me, I want to try to take advantage of them,” said Cameron, who had six catches for 33 yards last season. “Right now, I’m just doing what they’re telling me to do. Whatever comes my way, I’ll be more than happy. Everyone wants to make plays in this league and everyone wants the ball.”
Cameron said the reps he’s receiving are invaluable because he’s still raw.
“Technique was something I didn’t have when I came into the NFL last year, and I’ve been slowly chipping away at that with [tight ends] coach [Steve] Hagen and the other offensive guys,” Cameron said. “It’s been helpful to get the technique down because you can be a big athlete, but that doesn’t mean you’re a good football player at all.”
The 6-foot-5 Cameron also credits his workouts at the Elite Performance Factory in Westlake Village, Calif., for helping him prepare for training camp. Former NFL tight end Billy Miller, who played for the Browns in 2005, served as his trainer.
Cameron said his weight now fluctuates between 250-252 pounds. Last year, he played at 248 or 249.
“I bulked up a little bit in the offseason, got some more muscle on me,” Cameron said. “I’m a little more explosive and more powerful, and it kind of shows out there in the playmaking.”
The Browns hope it continues. Benjamin Watson is their starting tight end, but they hope Cameron can follow in the footsteps of Kent State product Antonio Gates and other collegiate basketball players who evolved into pass-catching machines in the NFL.
“Same background,” Cameron said. “It shows [some players] can have limited experience and be able to excel at the next level.”
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Browns blog at https://ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/browns.abj.