Berea Report: Things Tight at End

Although NFL Tight End Hank Fraley is undoubtedly looking to demonstrate his pass-catching chops, the Browns still hope that Steve Heiden and Robert Royal return to help the team's offense. Will they? Fred Greetham reports...

BEREA—The Browns haven't had a lot of success offensively, to say the least.

It was no secret the Browns were going to use the tight end position as more of a blocking tight end, as opposed to a receiver.

Hence, Kellen Winslow was traded to Tampa Bay in the off-season and Martin Rucker was released early in the season. Despite missing several games, Winslow had 43 receptions in 2008 and 82 in 2007.

The tight ends on the roster have caught a combined 20 passes with Robert Royal and Steve Heiden tied with eight apiece.  Royal has averaged 11.6 per catch, including a 26-yard touchdown, while Heiden is averaging 6.8 with a touchdown.

Through seven games, the Browns have four different players as having been the starter. With the injuries to Royal and Heiden, the Browns have been forced to use Hank Fraley at the position, as well as recent additions, Greg Estandia and Michael Gaines. Estandia caught two passes for 10 yards against the Packers, while Gaines caught two passes for 30 yards, including a 21-yard catch that put the Browns inside the five-yard line against the Packers.

Royal has been battling a hamstring injury and a dislocated finger for several weeks, but is hopeful he will play against the Bears. He was listed as doubtful on the first injury report after not practicing on Wednesday.

"We're thin at the position and so I'm hoping to get out there this week," Royal said. "There will be time off after this week's game, but we're trying to win ball games."

Mangini said he's also hopeful that Heiden, who is questionable with a knee injury, might be able to play this week, as well.

"I think we have a good chance, but we have to go through the week."

Gaines was particularly impressive as he joined the team for last Wednesday's practice and was able to contribute immediately and make one of the best catches of the game against the Packers.  

"Mike is the guy that caught the touchdown pass against us in the preseason game," Mangini said. "You remember that, as well. He has good hands. We're getting to know him here. He made some nice catches during the course of the week.

"Really, Greg (Estandia), since he's been here, has made some nice catches, as well," he said. "I thought he made a couple , they weren't necessarily big gains, but I thought they were well caught in contested areas. That was positive, as well."

If Heiden and Royal are once again, limited, the bulk of the duty will fall on Estandia and Gaines according to Mangini.

"We'll see where both those guys are, and also have to see where we are with Steve and Robert."

Royal thinks the Browns still have the pieces on offense to be productive.

"The main thing is for all the offensive guys to be on the same page," he said. "Everybody has to do their job and make sure the receivers are in the right areas."

Royal knows the Bears present a challenge this week, but is hopeful the Browns offense will be able to get on track.

"The first few games we had a chance to win, Royal said. "We have an opportunity to go out and play a good team this week in Chicago."

Browns Football:  Mangini was asked if he had to sell the players on each week's game because of the team's 1-6 record.

 "I don't really look at is as selling them on something," he said. "It's more important to get it fixed and play on Sunday our style of play. The level of preparation and style of play must stay consistent. It's the same approach whether you're winning or losing.

"There's no magic formula. It's just hard work," he said. "What I'm looking at is where we can improve the execution and how we can improve the execution."

Jennings Mark: RB Chris Jennings might have made the team due to his performance in the preseason finale against the Bears when he had 17 carries for 59 yards. He also had six receptions for 42 yards. He started the season the practice squad for three games and then was signed to the active roster after injuries sidelined RB James Davis and RB Jamal Lewis.

In the regular season, Jennings has one carry for 8 yards and one reception for two yards.

"I had a good preseason game," he said. "I just try to stay ready if I'm needed."

Hopeful for Dawson: Mangini continues to insist that K Phil Dawson could be ready for Sunday's game.

 "We have to get through the week and see how it responds."

With the bye week coming after this week's game, the thought might be to rest the Dawson or other players who've been out.

"We wouldn't put them out there if we thought there would be a setback."

Young Reporter: Keegan Kohorst, 7, from Mt. Pleasant, Ia. was at Mangini's press conference after winning an essay contest to be junior reporter for the day through as part of a Junior Kids Club contest.

His question was, ‘Coach Mangini, what NFL player would you like to have of all the players out there?'

Mangini was very cordial, but diplomatic in his answer.

"I really like the players I have here."

Baby Bowens: LB David Bowens missed Wednesday's practice after the birth of his son, David, Jr. It was Bowens' third child.

OL Hank Fraley yelled over to Bowens, ‘How's it feel to be a grandfather?' referring to Bowens showing some gray in his beard.

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