The Browns tight ends position saw a returning tight end play solidly, while two young tight ends performed two different tasks for the team. The Browns started Gary Barnidge at tight end, while Seth DeValve and Randall Telfer both contributed. At fullback, the Browns relied on Danny Vitale for the last portion of the season after letting go of Malcolm Johnson midway through the season. So, let’s take a look at how the tight ends and fullbacks performed in 2016, while also looking forward to 2017 to see what each position needs to do before next season.
Tight Ends on the roster: Gary Barnidge, Seth DeValve, Randall Telfer and J.P. Holtz
Fullback on the roster: Danny Vitale
Gary Barnidge: Caught 55 passes for 612 yards and two touchdowns.
Seth DeValve: Caught 10 passes for 127 yards and two touchdowns.
Randall Telfer: Caught two passes for four yards.
Danny Vitale: Caught four passes for 27 yards.
The Browns tight end position is led by Gary Barnidge. Coming off his first Pro Bowl season in 2015, Barnidge’s production dipped, but he still had a solid season. He is a strictly a receiving threat on the offense. He has reliable hands and good ball skills to get his body in the right position to make the catch. He is not a good blocker, limiting his value for the Browns. He is probably the Browns most reliable pass catcher on the team.
Seth DeValve had spurts of great plays, but was never able to consistently get on the field. He is a mismatch for the opposing defense because of his size and athleticism combo. He is a vertical threat with the ability to make big plays in the passing game. Three of his ten receptions were 20 or more yards. He is an OK blocker, but he is better utilized in space like in the slot, where he can create a mismatch against the defensive coverage. He should see a big increase in playing time next season.
Randall Telfer is a good blocking tight end with limited receiving skills. He was used most often to be the extra blocker on plays. He is the best blocking tight end on the team, so he has value for the Browns. J.P. Holtz did not see the field this season and is likely to be let go this offseason, especially if the team acquires another tight end.
The Browns tight end position has some really good receiving threats. Barnidge and DeValve are players who can be mismatches for the Browns offense and both players can make plays down field. Randall Telfer is a good blocking tight end, but he does not provide much receiving threat. The Browns have one-dimensional tight ends and lack a true in-line tight end who can block and catch the ball down the seam. But, the tight end position is good hands with the men on the team already and could become really good if the team can find an in-line tight end.
Danny Vitale is the only fullback on the roster after he had an OK season. He played half the season for the Browns after replacing Malcolm Johnson at the starting fullback spot. He had his ups and downs, but he seemed to improve as the season went on. He is not much of a runner or receiver, playing his best as a pure blocker. His spot is not given next season, but he has a chance to lock down the fullback position for the Browns. Hue Jackson would like a reliable fullback to utilize in offense.
The Browns are well supplied with receiving threats at the tight end position. Both Gary Barnidge and Seth DeValve provide vertical threats for the passing offense. Barnidge is a sure handed tight end with good ball skills to position himself into making the catch. DeValve is a freak athlete who can run faster than linebackers and is bigger than defensive backs. The Browns will have at least two passing threats in the tight ends group going into next season.
In-line Tight End
The Browns do not have an in-line tight end who can both block and make plays in the passing game. The in-line tight end is a huge threat for the offense because it is difficult to know what the job is on each play because of their ability to either block or go out for passes. The Browns need someone to make the defense confused and hard to figure out for the opposing defense. The current tight ends on the Browns are one-dimensional, either as a blocker or receiving threats.
To Do List
- Find an in-line tight end
The No. 1 task for the Browns to address at the tight end position is the lack of an in-line tight end. The Browns need to find a tight end who can block and make plays in the passing game. Right now, the team has one-dimensional players. In the draft, the Browns could target O.J. Howard or Jake Butt to fill this role. Or the Browns can go into free agency and target a guy like Martellus Bennett.
- Get Seth DeValve more involved in the offense
Going into next season, the Browns must use Seth DeValve a lot more in their passing game. He is a freak athlete who is bigger than defensive backs and faster than linebackers. He creates mismatches and even in his limited playing time this, he showed that he is a big play producer. DeValve can be a true weapon for the offense, but he must see more playing time. Play the man.
- Figure out the fullback position
The fullback position has been a hole on this team for quite awhile. In Hue Jackson’s offense, he likes to utilize the fullback more, but he was unable to fully utilize the position this season because of the lack of talent at the spot. Danny Vitale improved as the season went on, but I am not sure he fits what Jackson is looking for. Vitale is a solid blocker, but he offers no rushing or receiving skills. The Browns could target John Kuhn or Kyle Juszczyk in free agency. In the draft, the Browns could look at Sam Rogers in the draft.