Countdown to The Draft
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By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com
The Morning Kickoff …
Bess behavior: When he was traded to the Browns during the 2013 draft, Davone Bess knew that his first game would be against the team that gave him up.
But he never circled his calendar to mark Sunday’s season opener against the Miami Dolphins. Bess isn’t one to hold grudges.
“It’s Week 1. That’s my mindset,” Bess said. “It’d be easy to get emotional, knowing that I spent the first part of my career there. But I want to treat this game as if it was any other game. Stay poised and just execute and try to win a game.”
What Bess didn’t know when he was traded was that he would be a starter for the first game with his new team. With Josh Gordon beginning a two-game league suspension, Bess has been tabbed to fill in. He and Greg Little are listed as the starting wideouts on the first official depth chart of the regular season.
In five seasons with the Dolphins, Bess made 23 starts in 77 games, mostly when the team opted to begin a game in a three-receiver set.
He was an amazingly consistent player for them, averaging 64 catches a season. Bess never caught fewer than 51 in a season, and never averaged less than 10 yards a catch but no more than 12.8.
He had four starting quarterbacks in Miami – Chad Pennington, Chad Henne, Matt Moore and Ryan Tannehill. But when the Dolphins assessed their needs for Tannehill’s second season, they decided to spend in free agency for Mike Wallace and Brandon Gibson – younger receivers with speed.
“Things happen,” Bess said. “We all know how this business is. When I got traded, it was in the best interest of the Miami Dolphins. I’m a Cleveland Brown now. No grudges at all. I’m thankful to be here.”
Managing the preseason: Bess is the only major player added to the offense by the new regime. He is also the oldest – he’ll be 28 on Sept. 13 – among the so-called “skill” players.
He wound up playing very little in preseason, finishing with one catch for seven yards. He said he wasn’t held out because of injury.
“A lot of it was for maintenance,” he said. “I’ve been around for a little bit. The coaches were kind of taking care of me. I’ll be ready Sunday.”
Bess was acquired for his consistency and ability to move the chains as a third-down receiver. He gives Brandon Weeden a dependable target in the middle of the field on the money down that the quarterback never had as a rookie.
But you have to wonder about chemistry between Bess and Weeden. They hardly played together.
“For the reps we that we didn’t make up for from a physical standpoint on the field, we got them in the walk-throughs or in the meeting room,” Bess said. “We call them mental reps. They’re just as important as the physical ones. As long as we’re on the same page and understand each other, I don’t think it will throw off the timing.”
Bess’ role: In coach Rob Chudzinski’s previous stint with the Browns in 2007 as offensive coordinator, Joe Jurevicius was a lifesaver for quarterback Derek Anderson. Jurevicius had 50 catches, and 29 came on third down – third-most in the NFL that season.
In five seasons in Miami, Bess averaged 26 catches a year on third down. His 130 total ranked second to Atlanta’s Roddy White in that period.
Bess won’t be a touchdown-maker in Cleveland. But he should be a first down-maker. And his only chance at making a good first impression comes against his former team on Sunday.
He wouldn’t be human if he didn’t want to show the Dolphins they made a mistake by letting him go. Pressed on this issue, he finally relented.
“I mean, that’s part of my preparation,” Bess said. “And for me, that’s every week, playing every team. I didn’t get drafted coming out. So if I were to say it’s a grudge, it’s a grudge against every opposing team week in and week out.”
|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 email@example.comFollow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi
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