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Training Camp Preview: Cleveland Browns relying on young tight ends to help offense

David Njoku leads a young corps of tight ends into the Cleveland Browns' 2019 season.
Credit: Matt Florjancic
Cleveland Browns tight end David Njoku prepares to make a catch over the middle of the field during a drill on the first day of mandatory minicamp at team headquarters in Berea on Tuesday, June 4, 2019.

CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Browns got a lot of production from tight end David Njoku during the 2018 season, but of the five other tight ends currently on the roster -- Pharaoh Brown, Stephen Carlson, Orson Charles, Seth DeValve and Demetrius Harris -- three were either not with the team or did not record a catch last year.

Despite the lack of productivity behind Njoku, Browns general manager John Dorsey is pretty confident that there is enough talent at tight end to make a positive impact for the offense in 2019.

“I really like it,” Dorsey said of the depth at the tight end spot before the 2019 NFL Draft. “I like all of them. There are four of them right now together, and they are very talented individuals.

“They all will serve different roles in this thing, but I think as you watch them work together, they are starting to get familiar with each other. What I want to do is wait until training camp comes, and then, really assess what that thing is all about because why make decisions now in shorts? Let’s make decisions when pads get on.”

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Njoku was the Browns’ second-leading receiver during the 2018 season, as he registered 56 receptions, 639 yards, an 11.4 yards-per-catch average and four touchdowns, which were tied with wide receiver Jarvis Landry for the second-most on the team last year.

Over his two years with the Browns, Njoku, a first-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, has played in all 32 games, combining for 88 catches, 1,025 yards, an 11.6 yards-per-reception average and eight touchdowns, four each in 2017 and 2018.

DeValve caught just five passes for 74 yards and one touchdown and Orson Charles had only three receptions for 23 yards for the Browns during the 2018 season.

“He is a very young man with a lot of talent,” Dorsey said of Njoku. “He has a very workman-like attitude, and he loves the game of football. He still has a high ceiling here.”

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Harris spent five years with the Kansas City Chiefs, where he learned how to win at the NFL level, and that winning mindset is exactly what he plans on bringing to the Browns.

The 6-foot-7, 230-pound Harris is looking to help further the turnaround the Browns started with their 7-8-1 record during the 2018 season, which came on the heels of 1-31 over 2016 and 2017, including a winless campaign that secured the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. The Browns used that No. 1 pick to select quarterback Baker Mayfield.

“I’m just excited to be here,” Harris said in a conference call with the Cleveland media after signing with the Browns.

Credit: Ben Margot
Kansas City Chiefs tight end Demetrius Harris (84) reacts after catching a touchdown pass against Oakland Raiders defensive back Marcus Gilchrist (31) during the second half of an AFC West Division game in Oakland, California on Sunday, December 2, 2018.

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“I just want to bring the grit and just bring the winning culture back. Dorsey and the organization is building an amazing team. There are so many pieces around Mayfield. It is going to be an exciting year this year. I’m just ready to compete, have fun and win.”

In five seasons with the Chiefs, Harris registered 57 receptions, which he converted into 605 yards, a 10.6 yards-per-catch average and six touchdowns despite playing behind All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce.

“I’m most definitely an all-around tight end, but a lot of people don’t know I’m an all-around tight end,” Harris said. “I’m just trying to get the right opportunity to showcase my talent. I’m more of an all-around player that people really didn’t get to see because I was behind Kelce. I know I’m an all-around player.”

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