Newly acquired tight end Jim Dray takes pride in being a strong blocker
This is what tight end Jim Dray, who signed with the Cleveland Browns as a free agent Thursday, wants the team's fans to know about him.
"I'm going to come out and block the first day to the end," he said during an appearance on "Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford." "So you don't need to worry about that."
Good to hear.
A consistently effective blocking tight end had been on the list of needs for the Browns. General Manager Ray Farmer and coach Mike Pettine are confident they've taken a big step to address it by acquiring Dray, who spent the past four seasons with the Arizona Cardinals.
Dray, 27, readily acknowledges that he will likely do more blocking than fellow Browns tight end Jordan Cameron, who made his first Pro Bowl appearance last month after catching a career-high 80 passes for 917 yards and seven touchdowns. Dray established himself as a solid blocker during his senior season at Stanford, from where Arizona made him a seventh-round draft pick in 2010. That year, he helped Stanford finish 11th in the nation in rushing yards per game (218.2), which allowed Toby Gerhart to finish as a runner up for the Heisman Trophy.
And the 6-foot-5, 255-pound Dray is looking forward to the chance to help create those cutback lanes so important in the outside-zone run-blocking scheme of new Browns offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan.
"It requires a lot of body control and enjoying run-blocking," Dray said. "I try to have both. I enjoy getting a solid block just as much as catching a first-down (pass). I'm pretty excited to get to work."
He anticipates being particularly busy against the Browns' opponents in the AFC North. The Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, and Pittsburgh Steelers are all known for playing strong, physical defense, which the Browns intend to be their trademark as well.
"With how impressive this (division's) defenses are, things are going to be won and lost on the line of scrimmage," Dray said. "That's the number one thing, I think, is establishing the line of scrimmage and I think we're going to be able to get that done here."
Dray can catch the ball, too. In a career-best 15 starts last season, he achieved career highs for receptions (26), receiving yards (215), and touchdowns (two). He also caught every pass thrown his way, according to analysts at ProFootballFocus.com.
In 55 career games, including 18 starts, he has caught 33 passes for 302 yards with two touchdowns.
Dray is excited to join three former Arizona teammates – recently signed free-agent linebacker Karlos Dansby, 2013 free-agent linebacker Quentin Groves, and '13 free-agent quarterback Brian Hoyer – on the Browns.
He is especially looking forward to the chance of being part of the effort to turn around the team's fortunes.
"This is a great football town with great fans and they deserve a winning team," Dray said. "I think Mr. Farmer and Coach Pettine, they're going to get this thing headed in the right direction with free agency and the draft and everything, so it's exciting to be a part of.
"It's just (a matter of) building confidence. The only way you do that is through work and winning. And once you start winning and the ball starts rolling, it's almost impossible to stop, so once you start getting that ball going a little bit, it's going to work out."
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