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Browns training camp preview: Tight ends

Jul 18, 2013 -- 6:00am

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

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The Morning Kickoff …

Countdown to training camp: One in a series previewing the Browns’ roster leading up to the opening of training camp on July 25.

Position: Tight end.

Quick overview: Coach Rob Chudzinski was a three-year starter at tight end at University of Miami, coached the position there for four seasons and then for five seasons with the Browns and San Diego Chargers. His affinity for the position is shared by coordinator Norv Turner, who has coached the likes of Jay Novacek in Dallas, Randy McMichael in Miami, Antonio Gates in San Diego and Vernon Davis in San Francisco. Both coaches exploit mismatches at the position by fielding a strong corps at wide receiver and utilizing athletic tight ends on seam routes downfield.

Projected keepers on final roster: Three.

Starter entering camp: 84 Jordan Cameron (2013 salary cap number: $674,350).

Others in camp (alphabetically): 82 Gary Barnidge, 81 Kellen Davis, 87 Dan Gronkowski, 49 Travis Tannahill.

Key newcomers: Barnidge, signed as free agent (3 years/$3.75 million); Davis, signed as free agent (1 year/$715,000).

Analysis: Following the free agent exodus of veterans Ben Watson and Alex Smith, the stage is set for Cameron, in his third season, to elevate to a starting, if not starring, role. Cameron, a converted basketball player, has the athletic skills to be a playmaker at the position. But in two seasons, he has been nagged by minor injuries that have kept him off the practice and playing field. When the team’s June minicamp ended with Cameron nursing a pulled hamstring, Chudzinski made a point of saying, “The best ability is availability.” Barnidge was a backup and special teamer with the Carolina Panthers the past two seasons when Chudzinski was coordinator. Davis was a second tight end with the Chicago Bears and is the best in-line blocker of the group.

Don’t be surprised if: Barnidge makes a run at the starting position if Cameron misses any time with minor injuries. At minicamp, Turner remarked, “The guy that people will be surprised about is Gary.”

Key questions: 1. Can Cameron stay on the field and fulfill the potential of his athletic skills? 2. Will the team be content with the roster at this position or will it add a tight end before the start of the regular season?

Fun fact: Under Chudzinski as position coach or coordinator, the following tight ends posted career highs: Chargers’ Antonio Gates (89 catches in 2005, 1,157 yards in 2009), Browns’ Kellen Winslow Jr. (82, 1,106) and Panthers’ Greg Olsen (69, 843).

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@espncleveland.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

 

 

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