The tight end position is an evolving group with more emphasis on them being a threat in the passing game. The new style of the NFL tight end is one of a tall and fast player, who is more of receiver rather than a blocker. These players are physical freaks, who can give their teams mismatches in the passing game. A lot of the current tight ends in the NFL are solely either a receiving threat or a blocker. There are only a few tight ends in the league, who can both block and catch the ball. The Browns have one of the best tight ends in the NFL last season in Jordan Cameron. Beyond Cameron, the team has blocking tight ends in Gary Barnidge and Jim Dray. The Browns also have a young versatile player in MarQueis Gray, who could be a bigger threat this season. They also have two young tight ends in Emmanuel Ogbuehi and James Oboh. Let’s take a look at the state of the Browns tight ends.
Projected TE Depth Chart
Jordan Cameron had his breakout season last year and put himself in the conversation of being one of the best tight ends in the NFL. Last season, he caught 80 receptions for 917 yards and seven touchdowns. He had two games of over 100 yards and had three touchdowns in one game versus the Minnesota Vikings. He was third in receptions, second in receiving yards, and sixth in touchdowns amongst all NFL tight ends last season. He was second in receptions, receiving yards, and touchdowns for the Browns behind fellow Pro Bowler Josh Gordon. His great season led him to being selected to the Pro Bowl. Cameron is the team’s number two target, but could be the top target this season if Josh Gordon is suspended for any time.
Cameron is a 6-foot-5-inch, 245-pound former basketball player with very good athleticism. He posts a huge mismatch for an opposing defense because of his size and speed combination. He is bigger than cornerbacks and fastest than most linebackers. He is a red zone threat for the Browns because of his basketball background. He can go and get the ball at its highest point. Cameron is a very versatile pass catcher in that he can catch balls underneath the coverage and over the top for big gains. He has the ability to make plays after the catch and make big plays. He has very good hands and is a reliable target for the quarterback. According to sportingcharts.com, Cameron only had two drops and a 1.7% drop rate last season. Cameron is a prototypical new age tight end in the NFL.
Cameron emerged as a top target last season for the Browns. But before last season, he had not produced much for the Browns. This will be his biggest question mark coming into this coming season. He needs to show that last season was not a temporary success, but a preview of more to come. He has the talent and ability to be a top five tight end in the NFL. Cameron gives the Browns someone who can line up either on the line, in the slot, or even out wide. He is a huge weapon for the Browns and one could be the backbone of the passing offense this year if Josh Gordon is suspended for an extended period of time. He will look to build on his 2013 Pro Bowl season and be even better for the Browns.
MarQueis Gray is one of the most versatile players on the Browns’ roster. Gray played at quarterback and wide receiver at the University of Minnesota. He is entering his second season in the NFL and could be in line for a bigger role this year. Last season, Gray was placed in many different positions including wildcat quarterback, full back, and tight end. He had 43 rushing yards and eight receiving yards. He is a young player who showed signs last season that he could be a quality player for the Browns.
Gray has the size to play tight end at 6-feet-4-inch, 242-pounds. He has a combination of speed and strength, which could make him a good tight end. He ran a 4.73 second 40-yard dash and posted 15 reps on the bench press at the 2013 NFL Draft Combine. His speed and agility for a player his size give him the ability to be a pass catching threat who can make plays after the reception. Gray is still raw on being a tight end especially in the blocking aspects. He needs more experience at the position and learn the finer points of being a tight end in the NFL. But, he has the talent to be a weapon for the team because of his athleticism and versatility to play multiple positions.
Gray is being used so far in the offseason as the first team fullback. But, in Shanahan’s offense the fullback acts more as a H-back. I consider the H-back more of a tight end then a fullback because of their proclivity to be a passing threat and lining up in many different positions. He will be lined up in the backfield, on the line, and in the slot. This position is a perfect place for a player with his versatility. He could be a huge part of the offense because of his ability to fit the H-back spot in the new offense. He can give the team another mismatch on the field because of his combination of size and speed. Gray could be a breakout player for the Browns this season.
Jim Dray is a blocking tight end, who can also help in the passing game. He was signed in free agency from the Arizona Cardinals. Last season he started 15 of the 16 games he played in and had 26 receptions for 215 yards and two touchdowns. Dray is entering his fifth season in the NFL. He played four years at Stanford University before being drafted in the seventh round of the 2010 NFL Draft by the Cardinals.
Dray is a big tight end with a good frame at 6-feet-5-inches and 255-pounds. He is a blocking tight end, who can give the quarterback another big target in short yardage and goaline situations. He is a strong blocker with the ability to move defenders. He has good technique and footwork, which helps him stay engaged to the defender and finish off blocks well. He can be placed on the end of the line and hold his own in pass and run blocking. Dray is also a tall target for the quarterback to find as his second or third option on a play. He is another player who can help out in goaline situations either blocking or being an endzone target. He also can help out on special teams in blocking for field goals and returns. He will be competing for the backup blocking tight end spot against Gary Barnidge. Dray might be the favorite for the spot because he was selected by the current regime.
Gary Barnidge is a blocking tight end for the Browns and a short yardage target. Last season, he had 13 receptions for 127 yards and two touchdowns. He was not a huge threat in the passing game except in short yardage and goaline opportunities. He has solid hands that allow him to snatch passes without getting much separation from the defender. His biggest role for the Browns was blocking in both running and passing plays. He is a big tight end at 6-feet-6-inches and 250-pounds. In terms of blocking, he has good technique and form. He is a smart player, who knows blocking schemes and how to put himself in the right position to make the block. Barnidge is a lot of times looked upon as an extra offensive lineman. He will not wow people with his talent but he is a good role player for the team. He is a solid backup tight end, who can help out in special teams along with his other duties. He will be competing with Jim Dray for the backup blocking tight end spot. He could be the odd man out because of Dray being the coaching staff’s addition and Barnidge being the previous regime’s addition.
Emmanuel Ogbuehi is entering his second season in the NFL. He was a 2013 undrafted free agent from Georgia State, who was signed by the Washington Redskins after the draft. He was then cut at the end of the preseason and then went to the Miami Dolphins’ practice squad for the final four games of last season. The Browns signed him off waivers this offseason. He is an athletic tight end who ran a 4.68 second 40-yard dash at his pro day in 2013. He is a smaller tight end at only 6-feet-3-inches and 230-pounds. He along with Oboh will most likely be competing for a spot on the practice squad. It will be hard for him to him to make a spot on the team and will most likely be cut at the end of the preseason.
James Oboh is a 2014 undrafted free agent from Towson University. Last season at Towson, he had 24 receptions for 354 yards and four touchdowns. He is an athletic tight end at 6-feet-4-inches and 250-pounds. He ran a 4.83 second 40-yard dash at his pro day. He will have to make a big impression in training camp and the preseason games in order to make the team. He is probably just competing for a spot on the practice squad for the Browns. He most likely will only be around during the preseason and then cut when the roster is shaved to 53.
(Photo by: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports)