Cleveland Browns Have Potential for Secret Weapons


On paper, the Cleveland Browns are entering the 2015 season without their two biggest offensive play makers from the last two seasons. 2013 receiving yards leader Josh Gordon will be serving a second major suspension for substance abuse. Pro Bowl tight end Jordan Cameron signed with the Miami Dolphins in free agency.

The NFL Draft, flush with first-round-worthy receiver talent came and went with the Browns instead selecting help for the offensive and defensive lines. The free agent signings of Brian Hartline and Dwayne Bowe generated minimal buzz.

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Despite this, we have plenty to work with, was the message delivered by head coach Mike Pettine to Kevin Jones of at the Browns Foundation’s annual golf outing last week.

Aug 17, 2014; Charlotte, NC, USA; Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Dwayne Bowe (82) lines up on the field during the second quarter against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Jones and Pettine discussed the deep depth at both wide receiver and tight end positions now that free agency and undrafted player signings have concluded – especially the competition for the four available tight end spots on the roster.

“That room went from being – before we signed  [free agent tight end Rob] Housler – a big question mark, to what we feel is very deep,” Pettine said.

Rob Housler is an exciting pick-up that deserved more press. The speedy Florida Atlantic alum was integral to the Arizona Cardinal’s offense in 2012 and 2013 before seeing his role as a pass catcher diminish in 2014.

The Browns also retained veterans Jim Dray and Gary Barnidge, as well as drafting Randall Telfer out of USC in the sixth round and signing undrafted free agents Emmanuel Bibbs and Kevin Haplea. That makes six tight ends for those four spots. Nothing like a little healthy competition.

Dec 7, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns cornerback Justin Gilbert (21) scores a touchdown on an interception return during the third quarter against the Indianapolis Colts at FirstEnergy Stadium. The Colts beat the Browns 25-24. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The Browns have had recent success with undrafted players like cornerback K’Waun Williams, who shone in 2014 when first-round selection Justin Gilbert failed to live up to expectations, and wide receiver Taylor Gabriel who came in for a tryout and ended up contributing 621 receiving yards last season.

Both Williams and Gabriel proved to be secret weapons last season. Undrafted rookie receivers Paul Browning and Darius Jennings will try to repeat their performances in training camp this year.

“That room went from being a big question mark, to what we feel is very deep,” – Head Coach Mike Pettine

They join a very crowded wide receiver group that includes veterans Travis Benjamin, Kevin Cone, Andrew Hawkins, Marlon Moore and Rodney Smith in addition to Bowe, Hartline, Gabriel and fifth-round pick Vince Mayle.

Bleacher Report’s Andrea Hangst noted, “Until the Browns identify their quarterback, the receivers will be in a state of flux…Cleveland will likely attempt a redo on their 2014 season and try to be a run-heavy, defense-first type of team…This means that the receivers pegged to play the biggest roles for the Browns this year will need to truly prove themselves worthy of their snaps.”

The opportunities for catching passes will be fewer than the average team, so each pass has to count more. Putting up yards after the catch at either tight end or wide receiver will be crucial to making the final roster.

The wide receiver position group is also likely to only have 4 spots available, and though there may be room on special teams for some punt and kick return duties, making the team as a rookie wide receiver this year looks to be very difficult indeed.

Thus, if the Browns keep any of their undrafted free agents at these positions, we should prepare for a nice surprise. There’s a lot of solid veteran depth available at these positions, so if a newcomer joins the group, they may be the 2015 Browns’ secret weapon.

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