The latest position group to go under the microscope arguably outperformed expectations more than any other on the Browns roster.
It's time to examine Gary Barnidge and the rest of Cleveland's tight ends.
The Raw Data
Gary Barnidge - 16 games, 79 receptions, 1,043 yards, 9 TDs
Jim Dray - 16 games, 6 receptions, 61 yards
Malcolm Johnson - 12 games, 4 receptions, 15 yards
E.J. Bibbs - 7 games, 1 reception, 7 yards
Rob Housler - 6 games, 1 reception, 6 yards
Others on the roster
(According to Spotrac.com, the following players contracts will expire at the start of the new league year in March)
Who's in charge now?
Tight ends coach - Greg Seamon (25 years experience, 3 in NFL)
Quote to note
"You never know because you never know what is going to happen. I was very appreciative that the Browns gave me that opportunity to show what I could do this year. I am very thankful of that, and that also went into my decision, as well, because they gave that opportunity. I wanted to repay them." -- Barnidge
Barnidge gave plenty to pick from, but his Week 5 performance against the Baltimore Ravens helped steer the Browns to their second win of the season. Barnidge posted a season-best eight catches for 139 yards and a touchdown that served as one of the NFL's top highlights of the season. The touchdown catch that gave Cleveland the lead early in the fourth quarter became known as the "butt catch," as Barnidge used seemingly everything but his hands to trap the ball and secure a pivotal score. Dray and Housler also had catches in the 33-30 overtime victory.
This was the lowest point for the position group but it came in a win, so Barnidge and Co. certainly weren't complaining. Barnidge had one catch for 17 yards and the rest of Cleveland's tight ends came away with nothing in the Browns' 28-14 victory over the Titans in Week 2. Barnidge developed better chemistry with quarterback Duke Johnson Jr. as the season progressed, and his lowest output from that point forward was two catches for 35 yards against Cincinnati in early November.
Though Bibbs had just one catch in seven games, his ability to make and stay on the roster from Week 1 to Week 17 was commendable in its own right. Bibbs was one of more than 50 players invited to the Browns' rookie camp. He was one of eight to sign after the weekend tryout and the only one to make the initial 53-man roster after he consistently made plays throughout the preseason. Bibbs gained some valuable game experience during the second half of the year and is a player to watch heading into his second NFL season.
Outlook for 2016
The Browns saw more than enough from Barnidge in 2015 to know he's a player they can depend on heading into 2016 and beyond. His contract extension secures his spot in Cleveland for years to come, and the Browns hope to see a similar level of production from him in 2016. Dray was steady in his role as the No. 2 tight end and Bibbs has plenty of promise. Johnson got plenty of work as Cleveland's only fullback before his rookie season was cut short by a groin injury. How he'll be used in an offense directed by coach Hue Jackson remains to be seen.