Cleveland Browns wide receiver Davone Bess was known as being one of the more reliable slot receivers in the game when he played with the Miami Dolphins, but the Dolphins had to trade him away to Cleveland in the offseason after loading up on playmakers at WR and TE. The ‘Fins added Dustin Keller (sadly, it didn’t work out for them due to a major knee injury in the preseason), Brandon Gibson (suffered what is believed to be a season-ending knee injury yesterday, which really hurts since he was playing at a high level), and high-priced deep threat Mike Wallace.
Bess was the odd man out, and the Browns acquired him with the intent of making him the No. 3 receiver in the slot with Josh Gordon and Greg Little on the outside once Gordon returned from a suspension. In the 2011 and 2012 seasons, Bess had just five and eight drops respectively, which are respectable numbers. Again, he was touted as a reliable, you-know-what-you-get sort of receiver.
Now, he looks like an unreliable receiver, who is approaching the other you-know-what-you-get range…you know, the one where you know what you’re getting is below-average (that’s the Brandon Weeden category, for most Browns fans).
Through eight games this season, Davone Bess already has ten drops, which is just an absurd number. For three straight games, Bess has dropped the first pass thrown at him, and his miscues went to the “ridiculous” level yesterday against the Kansas City Chiefs. While the Browns did an excellent job of keeping it very close with the undefeated Chiefs, most fans rightfully feel a sick feeling in their stomachs the day after the loss; the feeling that they could have won the game if one player did his job.
Bess dropped three passes in the game, with the most notable one being the drop on the Browns final play. It wasn’t an easy one, but Bess has to hold on to a catch on fourth-and-seven that would have given his team a chance to win the game. It would have been the conversion that the Browns needed, and a veteran player like Bess has to make that catch. He also fumbled away a punt in the fourth quarter, when he probably should have just taken the fair catch.
It was a rough day for Bess, and I usually hate to be overly critical of players who simply had a rough day; it happens. But the thing is, Bess has had a rather rough season. I mean, he’s been dropping balls at a rate that is more Greg Little-like, which is definitely not a compliment. Bess doesn’t have the ability to make big plays like Little does, either, so he’s practically useless if he’s not catching the ball and moving the chains. Drops aren’t everything (I’ve made this statement many times in reference to Wes Welker’s time with the New England Patriots), but drops are a big reason why Bess has been among the worst wide receivers in the league this season. He is averaging just 4.7 yards per target, which is an absolutely putrid total. If you put that into context, that means Browns quarterbacks are averaging just 4.7 yards per attempt when throwing it towards Bess.
That lack of efficiency from one wide receiver is absolutely alarming, and the Browns have called his number on throws 56 times this season. A possession receiver, Bess has caught a meager 50% of all passes thrown at him, and he’s averaging under ten yards per reception. Those are pathetic numbers all-around, especially for a slot receiver. He’s just not moving the chains, and he isn’t making defenders miss after the catch either. He’s dropping passes, he’s not making big plays, and he’s been incredibly ineffective.
I think it’s safe to say that Davone Bess has been one of the least reliable offensive players in the NFL this season, and that’s an incredibly disappointing statement to make. Bess seems like an incredibly classy guy, as he’s been totally accountable for his mistakes; it always sucks seeing a player speak in as subdued of a tone as Bess did after the game yesterday. But remorse means nothing in the NFL; improvement does. Just a day or two before the game, Bess was adamant that he would rectify the drops and general ineffectiveness that has plagued him through the entire season; he then proceeded to play his worse game of the year.
The raw numbers from yesterday’s game were poor, too, as he caught just three of his eight targets for 27 yards. That’s an average of less than four yards per attempt, even as Jason Campbell averaged a hefty 8.1 yards per attempt.
Bess has a career average of catching 62.1% of everything thrown at him. He’s not a bad player, but he’s certainly having a horrific season. This is a guy who was expected to be a stabilizing veteran slot guy for the Cleveland Browns, and that’s something this team really needed. He’s been anything but reliable, and the numbers show that this definitely isn’t the case of one bad game; it’s a case of a season that needs to be turned around quickly. Bess is smart and resilient, so here’s to hoping that he turns things around as soon as possible, because the Browns can’t afford to have this continue.