Gray has been consistently taking first-team reps at fullback, a position critical to success in the Browns’ offense.
Coach Mike Pettine and the Browns are envisioning a role for Gray like the Miami Dolphins’ Charles Clay. A hybrid fullback/tight end, Clay hauled in 69 catches for 759 yards in 2013. There wasn’t a spot on the field that Clay didn’t line up at – a lead blocking fullback, a tight end in a bunch set or even a slot receiver.
“He’s Miami’s Swiss army knife,” said Gray of Clay. “It’s great that coach compared me to him. I’m ready for whatever. As long as I’m on this roster making plays and helping this team win.”
Gray said the second tight end position with the Browns, called "Tiger," is actually quite similar to playing fullback. The tiger is required to do a great deal of pre-snap movement, reading defenses and is used as more of a blocker.
The hardest part about the transition for Gray is his blocking assignments are now enlarged.
“Now I am lining up straight directly behind the quarterback,” said Gray. “You have to be able to do whatever you can to know the guy you are blocking and put yourself in a better spot to make plays.”
Because of the various read-option formations the Browns will entail, fullback is a complicated position. The Washington Redskins leaned heavily on their fullback, Darrel Young, under Kyle Shanahan. A weak link at the position would probably have meant less success for running back Alfred Morris. If Gray proves himself reliable, he knows he’ll be on the football field much more than just third-down and short.
“This is something that I prepared for,” Gray said. “I have no choice if I really want to make this team. I have to stay in my playbook, make adjustments when the picture changes as far as the defense.”