Jordan Cameron broke out in 2013, catching 80 balls for 917 yards and seven touchdowns. He had the second-most receiving yards for any tight end and the third-most receptions for his position. It was certainly his coming-out party.
The Browns do not just have a budding star, however. They also have a stable of other tight ends who can contribute to the team’s success. Let’s examine the tight ends currently on the roster heading into training camp.
Some will make the team and have prominent roles. Others won’t make it out of training camp. So which players fit in each category?
Cameron is the starter, the star and the guy who will dominate the position for the Browns. Not only will he command the most targets for his position, but he may also command the most targets on the team. He proved in 2013 that he is a game-changer at the position and needs to have the ball in his hands.
Cameron is a natural athlete who seems to have completed the transformation from collegiate basketball player to tight end. He can outrun any linebacker or safety and has the size to create matchup problems for cornerbacks.
Cameron thrives up the seam. His speed makes him a nightmare in zone coverages because defensive players cannot rotate quickly enough. When in man coverage up the seam his height and leaping ability make him nearly unstoppable.
Cameron faded late in 2013 after starting very hot. Defensive coordinators started rolling safeties over the top of his routes and creating double-teams. In his last seven games, Cameron had more than 43 receiving yards just twice and caught just one touchdown.
He needs to work on being more physical near the line of scrimmage and catching the ball in traffic. Cameron tends to like a finesse game more than a typical tight end.
Cameron also needs to work on his blocking. This is his worst attribute. It can usually be overlooked because he is such an elite pass-catcher, but he needs to sharpen this aspect if he wants to be a complete tight end.
The Browns signed former Arizona Cardinals tight end Jim Dray back in March to a three-year, $5.625 million contract, according to ProFootballTalk. That is the type of money you pay a guy who will make your team. Plus, he was one of the first acquisitions of the new general manager and coach combination.
He will be the backup to Cameron and will probably see the second-most snaps at the position. His specialty is blocking, and he will not be asked to do much more than that.
Dray is a blocker through and through. In his first three seasons in Arizona, he never caught more than three passes. Then in 2013 he broke out and caught 26 balls for 215 yards and two touchdowns.
He is not an ideal target for any quarterback but can make due with the skills he has. His bread and butter is knocking the snot out of defenders, however. Dray is physical and willing to mix it up with whoever is across from him on running and passing downs. That will earn him quite a bit of playing time.
Despite his elevated production in 2013, Dray is not the guy you want to be throwing the ball at very often. He cannot separate from defenders, and most of his receptions are a result of someone else getting too much attention. This could come in handy when teams drop those double-teams on Cameron, however.
The leftover backup tight end from last season is Gary Barnidge. He was a Rob Chudzinski guy and was brought in to be the blocker and secondary target at his position. He will be Dray’s main competition for the second tight end position.
In 2013, he caught 13 balls for 127 yards and two touchdowns. He was inconsistent at best. Barnidge will have a hard time making the team out of training camp. It may simply come down to the fact that Dray is their guy and he is not.
Barnidge is the type of guy who does everything serviceable and nothing amazing. He can block fairly well, he can catch balls when needed but will never make a huge play for you and never really wows on the field.
Once again, Barnidge really isn’t bad at anything, but he isn’t really good at anything either. Last season, he had a chance to solidify himself as the backup tight end. Then general manager Ray Farmer signed Dray. That says a lot.
Here is the wild card at the tight end position. MarQueis Gray is a former quarterback who can be used in Wildcat formations. He is more athletic than any of the other backup tight ends and can also shift into the backfield and play a lead blocker, running back hybrid.
Gray could steal a job from someone else if he shows he can play special teams and be a unique weapon in Kyle Shanahan’s offense.
James Oboh and Emmanuel Ogbuehi
Every training camp needs extra bodies to play with the third- and fourth-string offenses. That is the job of James Oboh and Emmanuel Ogbuehi. Neither will make the team unless they can really impress the coaching staff or there is a litany of injuries at the position.
Oboh could be a candidate for the practice squad if the coaches find him intriguing enough. Unfortunately, he is 6’4”, 250 pounds and ran a 4.85-second 40-yard dash. It may be tough to slip him through waivers and on to the practice squad.