The Browns have not had a productive offense since 2007. And if you’re like me, over the last five years you’ve probably watched the likes of New England, Green Bay, and New Orleans and wondered how it was possible that Brady, Rodgers, and Brees were playing the same sport that us Cleveland fans watched every Sunday.
In 2011 Drew Brees threw for 46 touchdowns while the entire Browns offense scored just 20. Yikes.
2012 was a little better. Last year Brees threw just five more TD’s (43) than the Browns offense scored (38). Signs of improvement for sure, but still a long way to go.
This offseason Banner and Lombardi put their emphasis on arming new Browns’ defensive coordinator Ray Horton with as many weapons as possible, but the offensive personnel remains largely unchanged. With Ben Watson being the only key departure leaving via free agency the hope was the Browns would land a new starting tight end, one that could be a reliable safety net for the inexperienced Brandon Weeden. But the Browns didn’t land Jared Cook, Dennis Pitta, or Brandon Myers, leaving the raw and inexperienced Jordan Cameron as the starter by default.
On 3rd and 6 are Browns fans are supposed to feel secure that Brandon Weeden has Jordan Cameron working the middle of the field to secure a first down? I don’t think so.
Enter wide receivers Davone Bess and David Nelson.Bess was acquired from the Dolphins for next to nothing during this year’s draft, while Nelson signed back in mid April coming off an injury shortened season with the Bills.
Neither receiver is dynamic or sexy, but both excel in the slot, and working the middle of the field. Without a reliable go to guy at tight end, the slot receivers in Norv Turner’s offense will become that much more valuable for Brandon Weeden in his second year.
Bess and Nelson can be safety blankets for Weeden. They can be the guy who reads blitz on third down, recognizes he has a backer manned up on him, and beats him for a chain moving reception.
Since 2008 only Roddy White has had more third down receptions than the 130 balls Bess caught on the most critical of downs during his time in Miami. Bess doesn’t have much speed and certainly doesn’t have size, standing at only 5’10, but he has the smarts and the discipline to effectively move the chains.
“To come in and just share my knowledge and be able to help out a group not only from a physical, playmaking standpoint, but just more mental and just understanding the game of football from an X’s and O’s standpoint,” Bess explained to the media during a conference call following his acquisition.
Not since the days of Joe Jurevicius plucking balls out of the snow filled skies back in ’07 have the Browns had a quality veteran wideout of Bess’s caliber. With Gordon, Little, and Benjamin having a combined 4 seasons under their the belts, the presence of an accomplished veteran should prove invaluable.
While Bess has five seasons of football under his belt — David Nelson has just two after missing all of his third year in the league, tearing his ACL in Buffalo’s first game of the season last year.
Nelson was at his best lined up in the slot of the Bills’ spread offense. At 6’4″ he poses match up problems for smaller safeties and nickelbacks attempting to cover him, and with wide receiver speed linebackers also have little chance in coverage.
“He’s such a good player for us, especially on third down, especially in the redzone,” former Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick told WGR 550 in Buffalo last December.
Nelson possesses the traits a quarterback would want out of a tight end. He’s reliable on third down, a red zone threat, and has a large catching catching radius thanks to his 6’4″ frame. Along with Bess he becomes another polished, veteran target whose impact should be felt on game days as well as in the locker room and on the practice field.
The Browns are still without a legitimate starting tight end. How detrimental this will be we won’t know for quite some time, but at least with the additons of Bess and Nelson Weeden now has some anchors in what was an inconsistent bunch of receivers in 2012.