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Cleveland Browns fullbacks and tight ends training camp position battles

The arrival of offensive coordinator John DeFilippo could inspire some changes in the production of the next position group we're profiling in our ongoing series.

That the Browns are using a fullback in their offense is already a significant difference from the unit that took the field for its regular season finale at Baltimore.


The Cast

TE Gary Barnidge

TE E.J. Bibbs

TE Jim Dray

TE Kevin Haplea

TE Rob Housler

TE Randall Telfer

FB Malcolm Johnson

What happened at OTAs?: Barnidge, Dray and Housler saw work with the first-team offense at a variety of spots. Barnidge and Dray were the top options at the "Y" tight end position, which focuses on blocking in the running game and can also keep the defense honest on short and intermediate pass plays. Housler, meanwhile, was positioned at the "F," where it's hoped he can utilize his speed and athleticism to make plays downfield. Telfer, whom the Browns selected in the sixth round, did not practice because of his recent foot surgery. Johnson, a fellow sixth-round pick, appeared to find a niche as the team's only fullback and was used as both a blocker and pass-catcher.

Under the radar: It's hard to find a 53-man roster in the NFL that doesn't include at least one undrafted rookie free agent. Could Bibbs be the one best in line to do that among the Browns' various undrafted rookies? Browns coach Mike Pettine mentioned Bibbs unprompted in his assessment of the position near the end of OTAs. The 6-foot-2, 258-pounder from Iowa State made the most of every practice and enters training camp in a good spot. He'll likely need to beat out one of the team's veterans at the position to land a spot on the 53-man roster, but he can take solace in the fact he's playing for a coaching staff that has a history of keeping its top performers, regardless of how they arrived on the roster.

Variables to consider: DeFilippo comes from an Oakland offense that regularly used a fullback, as Marcel Reece landed in the Pro Bowl this past year after catching 37 passes for 265 yards … Barnidge didn't light up the stat sheet by any means last season, but he was incredibly valuable and came up big when the Browns needed him most. He's caught 32 passes in a row without a drop and was one of the main reasons why Cleveland beat New Orleans in its 2014 home opener … Housler caught 45 passes for 417 yards in 2012 with the Arizona Cardinals … There is no timetable for Telfer's return to the field.

Quote to note: "We're going to kind of see as we go through OTAs and finish up mini-camp, then training camp, kind of where players fit. Right now, we're asking them to do everything. Then, we'll make those determinations as we start to see the offense take shape." -- tight ends coach Brian Angelichio

How many were kept at the end of preseason last year?: Four (three TEs, one FB)

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