December 30, 2012; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers head coach Norv Turner hugs tight end Antonio Gates (85) after a win against the Oakland Raiders at Qualcomm Stadium. The Chargers won 24-21. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Finding the Antonio Gates in New Browns Offense

Jun 4, 2013; Berea, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns wide receiver David Nelson (11) during minicamp at the Cleveland Browns Training Facility. Mandatory Credit: Ron Schwane-USA TODAY Sports

When the Cleveland Browns hired Rob Chudzinski and Norv Turner this off-season it was expected that the tight end position would be addressed through a significant transaction. Yet free agency and the draft came and went with no significant additions, less you consider two backup blocking tight ends. With the loss of Josh Gordon for 2 games due to a positive drug test, those receiving passes in the new offense are more important then ever. Coach Chud and Coordinator Turner have a long history of using the tight end position to stretch the middle of the field and keep safeties from cheating over on sideline routes. This strategy worked wonders for Chud with Kellen Winslow in his first go round with the Browns and Turner had years of success deploying Antonio Gates for the Chargers. Gates teamed with receivers, specifically Vincent Jackson to deploy Turner’s offense and turn Philip Rivers into a star.

To start out the team is expecting Jordan Cameron, a basketball player turned tight end like Gates, to take hold and star in the tight end role. Cameron’s athletic ability should prove key in his attempt to make Browns fan utter the names of Winslow and Gates comparisons. Yet Cameron has not shown the ability to be a full time difference maker in his young career.  The Browns this off-season made some additions that may allow for some flexibility including for Gordon’s suspension and the possibility of Cameron failing. The addition of Devone Bess and David Nelson are the key contributions that may provide successful offensive football.

During Gordon’s 2 game suspension expectation is that Travis Benjamin, with his great speed, to take many of Gordon’s downfield routes. While not the tall, game changing receiver that Gordon is, Benjamin’s speed may allow him to stretch the defense and keep the safeties honest and out of the middle of the field. Bess will be deployed in the slot running many underneath and option routes. Even following Gordon’s return Bess and Benjamin can continue to take care of underneath routes. If Cameron is not successful, and even if he has success, Nelson will be deployed in a similar role as a tight end in Turner’s offense. Though in the slot Nelson will provide a significantly different set of skills then Bess and Benjamin. Nelson has the height and girth of a tight end with the route running, hands and experience of a wide receiver. Nelson will be able to stretch the field vertically, provide blocking on the edge and provide solid red zone and short yardage receiving.

One thing for sure, compared to previous years the Browns offense has the resources to be successful, even with Gordon’s suspension. All of this was written without mentioning the late season development of Greg Little and the proven hands of Trent Richardson. With the experience of Coach Chud and Turner and the talented offensive line, those receiving passes from Brandon Weeden should provide dynamics not seen since the one year of Derek Anderson, Jamal Lewis, Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow. Fans of the team should be excited for the first time in many years.

Tags: Antonio Gates David Nelson Davone Bess Josh Gordon National Football League Nfl Norv Turner Offense Rob Chudzinski Tight End

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