Outside of Cleveland, the National Football League is a passing league. While rushing the football will always be part of the game, the balance of power leans towards the pass and the tight-end position again is counted on to be a threat.
In Cleveland, the home of two tight-end sets and inconsistency, the threat of a consistent receiving-type tight end would be a welcomed sight.
Veteran tight-end Steve Heiden was being counted on to be a receiving threat in the 2009 season. Coming off knee surgery, Heiden was never a factor for the Browns. Having lost his quickness due to multiple surgical procedures, Heiden could likely be at the end of his career.
As the season wound down, Evan Moore, signed off the practice squad, emerged as a viable weapon in the Browns' passing game. Prior to the arrival of Moore, the tight end had basically morphed into an additional offensive lineman as veteran Robert Royal struggled to hold onto the football when the opportunity arose -- but Royal can block with the best of them at the tight-end spot.
From Heiden, Moore, Royal, Michael Gaines and Greg Estandia, the tight-end position in Cleveland has plenty of room for improvement in the pass-receiving aspect of the game. Only Moore displayed the ability to catch the football consistently when called upon.
This ability and development could be the first steps in evaluating and securing a roster position heading into the off-season as the Browns are expected to solidify the pass-catching facet of the position.
- When Evan Moore was signed off the practice squad, the first impression was the coaching staff just filling another roster spot. Immediately upon making his way onto the playing field, Moore proved to be anything but just another guy.
As he had done on numerous occasions in practice sessions as a member of the scout team, Moore displayed the ability to run good routes, get himself between the ball and the coverage while making some difficult catches. Heading into an off-season of uncertainty for the Browns -- not only at this specific position, but the offense as a whole -- Moore has caught the eye of the coaching staff and has been told he will enter this off-season as part of the equation.
- Veteran Robert Royal is a tale of two players. Royal the blocker and teammate is as good as it gets at the position. Often utilized as an edge-contain blocker in the Browns two-tight end base sets, Royal was a catalyst as the Browns had become increasingly effective running off-tackle as the season progressed.
Despite the ability to find the soft spot of a defense, Royal struggled to make the catch with any consistency. Playing with a finger injury throughout the season did not help his case, but drops have followed this tight end at every stage of his career. As the Browns will look to remain physical at the point of attack and can benefit from the blocking skills of a tight end such as Royal, the veteran is likely headed to training camp on the roster as the competition kicks off.
- Michael Gaines was signed and thrust onto the playing field due to injuries suffered by Heiden and Royal. While not possessing prototypical size and quickness for a tight end, Gaines displays inconsistency in gaining separation in the passing game. Despite his lower center and wide base, this tight end is adequate at best in the blocking scheme.
With the Browns looking to add an athletic, pass-receiving presence at the position, Gaines' spot on the roster could be precarious. The veteran could survive and be a candidate for training-camp depth, especially if the organization does not improve the potential quality and depth.
- As was the case with Gaines, Greg Estandia was added to the active roster due to injury issues at the position. Despite a tremendous advantage in height (6'8"), Estandia does not utilize this physical gift. Though having an above-average burst, the tight end struggles to gain separation and tends to not get his head around to haul in pass attempts.
An average blocker at best, Estandia's inability to capitalize on the opportunity makes him expendable unless he displays further development and consistency. Estandia has proven to be a solid special teams participant, which may provide a longer look for the tight end if the organization does not add a presence at the position.