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Position Preview

Browns 2021 position preview: Analyzing the tight ends

Tight ends play a valuable role in Kevin Stefanski’s offense, so how much can they grow under Year 2 with the playbook?

The countdown 'til training camp is on.

In two weeks, the Browns will be back in Berea for five weeks of practices, meetings and preparations for the 2021 season — one that's filled with hype following several key additions to the defense and little changes to an offense that thrived in 2020.

We're examining each position on the roster as Day 1 of camp nears and continuing with one of the most reliable positions the Browns had in 2020.

The Tight Ends

Austin Hooper

David Njoku

Harrison Bryant

Stephen Carlson

Connor Davis

Jordan Franks

​​What we know: Much like several positions on the offense, this tight ends group enters training camp with little change from 2020. That's no surprise after the group made heavy contributions as blockers and receivers last season. That's what head coach Kevin Stefanski expected with a playbook that requires heavy work from the position. All three of the top contributors from the room — Hooper, Njoku and Bryant — will be back and have plenty of reasons to believe they can be even better this season. Hooper finished second among all receivers with 70 targets for 435 receiving yards and will have every opportunity to improve from his four touchdowns from 2020. Njoku, a 2017 first-round pick, drew praise for his blocking abilities last season while making 19 receptions and two touchdowns. Bryant, a 2020 fourth-round pick, delivered three touchdowns on 24 receptions and gave ample reasons to believe he can play bigger roles in the tight ends room in the future. Carlson, the other returning tight end from last season, played key roles as a special teams contributor.

Check out photos of the tight ends the Browns will be bringing into training camp

What we don't know: While the group had a solid 2020 season, the Browns believe they can get even more from the top guys in 2021. The question is how big of a jump can each of them make? Hooper has become one of quarterback Baker Mayfield's favorite targets and should be in line for plenty of red zone opportunities. Njoku and Bryant each could be given more opportunities as well, but both players were given slightly bigger receiver roles when Odell Beckham Jr. suffered a season-ending injury. How might Beckham's return impact their chances in the pass game? It's a safe bet to predict all three players will carry big jobs in Stefanski's offense, which constantly calls for formations with two or three tight ends on the field, but it'll be interesting to see how receiving roles are split between the group.

The X-Factors: We're highlighting two guys: Njoku and Bryant. Hooper is the leader of the room and should handle a similar workload from last season, but if the group wants to collectively take a big step forward, much of the growth will have to stem from Njoku and Bryant. Their 2020 performances were respectable and certainly helped Cleveland build a consistent offense, but the Browns believe both players are capable of doing even more under Year 2 of Stefanski's offense.

The biggest number: 2. That's how many drops Hooper had among his 70 targets, which showcases just how reliable of a target he was for Mayfield last season. Only Beckham (one drop) and Rashard Higgins (zero drops) had fewer drops among Browns receivers with 30 or more targets last season. 

Says it all: "With no offseason and everything that led up to training camp, Stefanski definitely had to keep it pretty vanilla until about halfway through the year when we really understood (the schemes). After having the full year where we laid it all out there, this is where we can have some more fun with it and add some wrinkles now that we've built a good foundation together." - Hooper

How many were kept on the initial 53-man roster last year?: 5

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