Thursday, May 1, 2014

Cleveland Browns Tight Ends May Be the Best

     True football junkies care about the tight end position, so this is for you.  Believe it or not, the Browns carried four tight ends last year, and they have five tight ends on the roster right now.  Jordan Cameron was the star, of course, making the Pro Bowl for the first time. Many people consider him to be THE Browns tight end.  

Jordan Cameron made the Pro Bowl, based on catching the ball  80 times for  917 yards.

     However, though not very many people noticed, Norv Turner had the Browns in a lot of two tight end formations last year.  Gary Barnidge also played in more than half the snaps (789 for Gary, and 971 for Jordan, if you can believe that). Barnidge is a competent receiver and blocker, but not really a road grader like Kellen Davis (who they got rid of at the end of training camp, and who then picked up a Superbowl ring with Seattle).  

Everything we hear about Gary Barnidge off the field is great.  Here he is giving his cleats to a young fan after the Browns beat Baltimore last year.  He is one of my favorite Browns, but man this is a tough, tough position this year...  

     MarQueis Gray was the third tight end and was also used as the quarterback for the Browns' "wildcat" formation for what it's worth.  He started two games for the Browns last year and participated in 279 snaps while you were not looking.  The Browns seem to be very high on his athleticism, but he is still learning the position. He played quarterback at Minnesota.  He also has been a contributor to the Browns on special teams.  So he may be the most interesting athlete at the position, but how far has he progressed at the tight end position??  Can he overtake Barnidge on the depth chart? 

MarQueis Gray was the third string tight end and also got in some snaps at quarterback in the Wildcat.  

    The Browns also signed Jim Dray, who comes with a reputation for being a very hard-nosed run blocker.  I think he is likely to wind up as the number two tight end behind Cameron, and the Browns are going to be able to run better than last year's team.  

    I'm not sure why they signed Andre Smith last year, although he certainly has the size to be a run blocker.  He was another of Banner and Lombardi's minimum wage guys last year.  Let's just say it will be an uphill battle to make the team this year.  

    Given that they also have a true fullback this year in Chris Pressley, my guess is they are probably going to drop at least one and perhaps two of last year's tight ends.  Barnidge is going to play in the NFL somewhere, but Gray may have to beat him out to make the team.  This year there is actually both quality and depth at this position.  

84 Cameron, Jordan TE 6-5 249 25 4 USC
81 Dray, Jim                TE 6-5 255 27 5 Stanford
82 Barnidge, Gary TE 6-6 250 28  7 Louisville
47 Gray, MarQueis TE 6-4 242 24 2 Minnesota
87 Smith, Andre        TE 6-4 270 25 3 Virginia Tech

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