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Browns tight ends Jim Dray and Gary Barnidge ready to step up


You won't find a more modest player in the Cleveland Browns' locker room than tight end Jim Dray.

On the first play of the fourth quarter against the Raiders, Brian Hoyer zipped a pass right into Dray's breadbasket for 16 yards, setting up an eventual Browns touchdown that sealed the game.

A reporter asked Dray if he feels that he's underrated as pass-catching tight end. After all, Dray's nine catches are just a shade behind starting tight end Jordan Cameron's 13. Nonsense, insists Dray.

"It's easy when you are wide open," said Dray, who does boast four separate games in which he's caught a pass of 14 yards or more. "That was all Kyle [Shanahan's] scheming and game planning. I just ran the route that he called. And no one was around me…It wasn't anything crazy."

Coach Mike Pettine agreed that Dray is an interesting character who's not exactly a flashy player or person, but also the ultimate professional.

"He's comes in, hardly says a word and just all he does is work," said Pettine of the fifth-year player. "Very intelligent, very interactive with the staff, I think does a real good job with his preparation. He knows all the different spots. He's very flexible that way, very versatile, and he's made plays for us. He's gotten open. When a ball's been thrown to him he's caught it."

Dray and fellow teammate Gary Barnidge realize they very well could be thrown into the spotlight on Sunday against the Buccaneers. Cameron suffered a concussion last Sunday against Oakland and was held out of practice on Wednesday.  The Browns are closely monitoring his progression and the league's protocol, but the veteran tight ends are preparing themselves as if they are carrying the load.

"You can't replace Jordan," Dray said. "I mean the guy is athletically, a freak. He went to the Pro Bowl. Gary and I have been around a long time. Hopefully collectively we can pick up some of the slack." 

Barnidge already has before this season. With Cameron sidelined in Week 2 due to a flared up shoulder, Barnidge tore through the Saints defense, including Pro Bowl safety Jairus Byrd, frying the Saints for four clutch receptions all coming on third or fourth-down and 41 yards.

But since then, Barnidge hasn't even been targeted once in a game. Shanahan has used the 29-year-old, who is in his seventh season, mostly as a blocker in the run game. But as is the case in the NFL, players can see their roles shift as quickly as a flash of lightning.

"I think our whole room is comfortable stepping right in and playing," said Barnidge. "We proved last week we could step in when Jordan got hurt. The same thing with the Saints game. It's the next guy up. Our whole tight ends room can do everything."

Similar to Jacksonville and Oakland, just because Tampa Bay's record (1-6) says they are struggling, doesn't mean they don't have the talent to come into FirstEnergy Stadium and pull off an upset. Dray described the Buccaneers defense as ultra-athletic and their scheme calls for a bunch of confusing movement.   

For Dray and Barnidge, the pressure is on – isn't it?

"If there is, I don't feel it," said Dray. "I've been around long enough to know, if you don't do your job you are out of here anyway. All I can worry about is doing my job."

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