AFC North: Cleveland Browns

Adam Schefter broke the news Wednesday that the Cleveland Browns were interviewing Kevin O’Connell to be the team’s quarterbacks coach.

Because he’d never coached in the NFL, the news sent me to Google to find out more about him.

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Here’s what I learned:
  • O’Connell came out of San Diego State with good size (6-foot-6) and the ability to run.
  • Prior to the draft he was tutored by a group that included former Browns quarterback Charlie Frye.
  • He was drafted by New England in the third round in 2008.
  • He originally was the third quarterback but moved up to backup when Tom Brady tore a knee ligament in the season opener. Matt Cassel started that season and won 10 games.
  • O’Connell threw six passes and completed four, for 23 yards.
  • The next season, O’Connell was cut after he was beat out for the backup spot by Brian Hoyer, an undrafted rookie.
  • O’Connell bounced around the league but was only on an active roster again with the Jets, where Mike Pettine worked as defensive coordinator. Apparently the two have remained close since.
  • After 2011, O’Connell became a private quarterback tutor.
  • Last offseason, he worked extensively with Johnny Manziel to prepare him for the NFL. O’Connell was invited to George Whitfield’s quarterback camp, where O’Connell spent a lot of time with Manziel.
  • At last year’s NFL draft combine, O’Connell told ESPN's Field Yates that if he were Houston he’d take Manziel with the first pick, though he admitted he was biased because he worked with Manziel.
  • After the draft, O’Connell gave this honest assessment in a podcast with CBSSports.com: “I think the decision personally is this guy can win us games by being a playmaker, and when the throw is there to be made he’s going to make that throw. And if he doesn't, either because he’s not protected or he doesn’t understand the protections, he’s gonna then ... his creativity and natural ability will take over and he’ll move on from there and make a play. With the NFL, what scares people is defenses are just too darn good. And the speed ... you saw it a little bit last year ... sideline to sideline closing on RGIII in his second year vs. the first year. I mean, you have to have a passing concept. You have to have the ability to read the entire field. Evaluate matchups. Understand the weakness of the defense.”
  • O’Connell added that Manziel needed to combine his playmaking ability with the preparation of a Russell Wilson and improve his understanding of NFL defenses if he wanted to succeed. O’Connell stressed Manziel’s success would depend on his work ethic but said Manziel would be “fantastic” if he dedicated himself.
  • During training camp, Pettine had O’Connell spend a few days with the team, both in the meeting rooms and on the field.
  • O’Connell was an analyst on CBS for Mountain West games last season.
ESPN.com's AFC North reporters voted on five awards for the division (Coach of the Year, Offensive Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player), and one will be handed out each day throughout this week. Consider this our version of the NFL Honors show.

For Wednesday, it's the 2014 AFC North Defensive Player of the Year ...

There was no overwhelmingly dominant defensive player in the AFC North in 2014. That’s the result of this voting, as eight players were nominated, the most for any award. No player received more than two first-place votes.

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The winner: Baltimore’s Elvis Dumervil, who led the division and ranked third in the league with 17 sacks. Dumervil paired with Terrell Suggs (who finished tied for third) to form the best pass-rushing tandem in the division, and perhaps the league. The two combined with 29 sacks.

Dumervil was a smart pickup by Ozzie Newsome after he left Denver following a snafu in faxing him a restructured contract offer in 2013. He had one game this past season with 3.5 sacks, and he set Baltimore’s single-season sack record.

Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden finished second, with Baltimore linebacker C.J. Mosley and Suggs tying for third.

Haden went to his second consecutive Pro Bowl after a season when he had three interceptions and 20 passes broken up. Haden ranked first in the division and second in the league in passes defensed.

Suggs had his usual excellent season with 61 tackles and 12 sacks. Mosley’s 133 tackles ranked seventh in the league.

Dumervil had two first-place votes, with Pittsburgh linebacker Lawrence Timmons, Suggs and Mosley receiving one vote each.

AFC North Defensive Player of the Year: Elvis Dumervil, 10 points; Joe Haden, 5; C.J. Mosley, 4; Terrell Suggs, 4; Lawrence Timmons, 3; Tashaun Gipson, Cleveland, 2; Vincent Rey, Cincinnati, 1; George Iloka, Cincinnati, 1.

Panel of voters: Scott Brown, Jeremy Fowler, Coley Harvey, Jamison Hensley and Pat McManamon.
Sans Josh Gordon, this is the group of wide receivers on the Cleveland Browns roster today: Miles Austin, Phil Bates, Travis Benjamin, Kevin Cone, Taylor Gabriel, Andrew Hawkins, Marlon Moore and Rodney Smith.

Take away Austin, who is headed to free agency, and the seven pass-catchers left have a combined 21 years experience.

They average for their careers 35 catches, 496 yards and two touchdowns. In 2014 alone, 121 receivers had more than 35 catches and 92 had more than 496 yards. Take away Hawkins, Gabriel and Benjamin and the other four have a combined 20 catches for 318 yards.

The NFL rookie receiving class in 2014 set rookie records. Eight had at least 50 catches, three had 1,000 yards and four had eight or more touchdowns.

The Browns drafted none of them. Their two first-round picks were used on Justin Gilbert and Johnny Manziel, both of whom enter their second season with serious question marks.

“The rookies this year -- phenomenal,” general manager Ray Farmer said two days after the season. “Great job by a lot of those guys. They were high-drafted or high selected oriented players on our board. I know I said I wouldn’t talk about our board but to that tune, they were high there as how we valued what they were capable of doing. But then again, can you piece it together? I think you most certainly can with guys that have traits that translate to the type of offense that you want to run.”

Despite the fact he said the rookie wide receivers were “phenomenal,” he had no regrets about not taking one.

“I know everyone says I’m stubborn,” he said, “or I’m going to be obstinate about this wide receiver position, but I just think that at the end of the day an offensive line(man) affects every single play of the game. A wide receiver may touch the ball 10 times if he’s having a great day so I just like the idea of ‘let’s get the guys that affect the game all the time and let’s try and get those guys and make a difference for our football team.’”

Farmer cautioned during the season against expecting too much when Gordon returned from suspension, and he was right. And there was a time before Gordon returned when the other receivers were a hard-working bunch doing things the right way -- and the Browns were winning.

“I’m a believer that this whole notion that you’ve got to have this one guy that’s the silver bullet is a myth,” he said. “I think it’s like trying to catch werewolves and vampires. They just don’t exist. I’m a big believer in it’s a team sport, and when we combine the requisite skill sets necessary to let guys have success we have that success. We saw that earlier this year that we were missing certain key components that people thought were high-value targets and assets for us, but we played team football. As a result of that, we were able to have success.”

The group the Browns had worked like mad. Hawkins, Gabriel and Benjamin may be small, but their hearts are large. Austin, too, played an important role. He was the bigger target outside, the guy who could be counted on to make the third-down catch. He led the team with 14 third-down catches in the 11 games he played. That was vital, because when Gordon returned he was not dependable and Austin’s absence to a lacerated kidney was noticed.

The Browns at present have two slot receivers (Hawkins and Gabriel) and one situational guy who can be very effective when used properly (Benjamin).

The team seems to have a glaring need for the starting type. There is time to try to bring back Austin, and free agency will provide players to peruse.

But the Browns have two first-round picks. Logic would say the receiver position has to be strongly in the discussion for one of the picks -- except Farmer doesn’t seem to buy into the conventional wisdom.

Johnny Manziel's rookie season in photos

January, 23, 2015
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Johnny Manziel might have been disappointed to fall to the No. 22 pick on draft night, but that paled in comparison to the problems he would later encounter during his rookie season with the Cleveland Browns.

From being fined for an obscene gesture during a preseason game to posting a 1.0 QBR in his debut to being fined for missing a treatment on his injured hamstring, Manziel stayed in the headlines for all of the wrong reasons.

Here is a look back in pictures at a much-publicized, if not successful, rookie season.

Johnny ManzielElsa/Getty ImagesFalling to Cleveland with the 22nd pick didn't humble Manziel, as the former Heisman winner flashed his money sign on stage. Within 25 minutes of Manziel's selection, the Browns had sold 200 season tickets and had 300 renewed.
Johnny ManzielESPNCoach Mike Pettine wasn't amused when he learned Manziel had flipped off taunters on the Redskins' sideline during a preseason game. Manziel was fined $12,000 by the league for his momentary loss of composure.
Johnny ManzielKevin Hoffman/USA TODAY SportsManziel led an 80-yard touchdown drive, capped by his 10-yard run, on his first possession after subbing for a struggling Brian Hoyer against the Bills. It was the highlight of his rookie season.
Johnny ManzielAP Photo/David RichardManziel looked ill prepared in his first start, in Week 15 against the Bengals. He was 10-of-18 passing for 80 yards and two interceptions as Cleveland lost 30-0, its first shutout defeat in five years. Manziel's QBR was 1.0.
Johnny ManzielAP Photo/David RichardMoney signs were being flashed in Week 15, but not by Manziel. The Bengals had fun with his trademark gesture after smothering the rookie in his first start.
Johnny Manziel Grant Halverson/Getty ImagesA hamstring injury cut Manziel's season short, and being fined for not showing up for treatment on the injury the following week was one of the low points of his season.
Johnny ManzielAP Photo/Don WrightThe Browns' quarterback situation is as uncertain as ever after Manziel's performance on the field and questions about his commitment off the field. Brian Hoyer is an impending free agent whose return is in doubt.


The message from the Cleveland Browns about the team’s quarterback situation in 2015 remains consistent: Johnny Manziel is not a given.

The Browns are answering questions bluntly about Manziel by saying there is no certainty they will turn to him as their guy.

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Then again, they also said before last season that they didn’t want him to play at all as a rookie. Can’t ignore that fact.

What are the Browns saying?

Coach Mike Pettine the day after the season: "It's just still very early to tell just what [Manziel's] future holds for us."

General manager Ray Farmer two days after the season: "There could be any number of stones that we overturn to try to find the right [player] to bring in here to help improve our roster."

New offensive coordinator John DeFilippo on Thursday: "We're not sure if our starting quarterback is in the building right now or not."

Pettine on Thursday: The quarterback possibilities "are all items that will be on the table for discussion."

Even owner Jimmy Haslam weighed in the same way, speaking to a group of reporters at the Greater Cleveland Sports Awards Thursday night.

"We don't know who our quarterback's going to be next season," Haslam said.

The clear message is that the Browns, publicly at least, are not willing to commit to Manziel based on the six quarters they saw from him as the starter. They don't seem inclined to cut ties with him, but they don't seem inclined to anoint him, either.

Couple that with the reality that the team reached out to Brian Hoyer about returning -- no numbers discussed yet -- and the message delivered is that the Browns are pondering options.

And while they ponder, they are evaluating Manziel and his future.

To hear the Browns, they don't know how it will play out.

It's not exactly a comforting feeling to see a team be so open about the uncertain status of its most important position, but it is January. A lot can happen before minicamp, let alone training camp.

But there seem to be some very clear and direct signals going from the team to its second-year quarterback.
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Two interesting things happened related to the Cleveland Browns quarterback situation on a usually meaningless mid-January day.

First, new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo said the team really doesn’t know who the quarterback will be in 2015.

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Speaking with head coach Mike Pettine sitting next to him, DeFilippo said: "We're not sure if our starting quarterback is in the building right now or not. If he is, great. If he's not, that's great too."

Shortly after the news conference, Brian Hoyer's agent Joe Linta told Browns writer Jeremy Fowler that the team had reached out to him about a contract extension.

"We've left the door open both ways," Linta said.

Time will tell what it all means, but it is interesting. Clearly, though, the details are what matters. If the Browns offer Hoyer backup money, he will go to free agency.

Last offseason the team declined to offer more than that. Hoyer declined to sign. Now the Browns have their new offensive coordinator talking about not knowing the quarterback.

DeFilippo's statement, like the Browns' negotiations with Hoyer, comes down to details. Because DeFilippo admitted he was eager to work with Johnny Manziel, or whoever walked through the door. DeFilippo said he’s used to late adjustments, and mentioned guys like Derek Carr, Matt Flynn, and Matt Schaub arriving as free agents or via the drafts.

The problem is that neither Flynn nor Schaub did a whole lot of anything in Oakland. Flynn had one start and 34 pass attempts. Schaub had 10 passes while Carr played throughout his rookie season.

Carr did well, but the veterans on the free agent market this offseason are kind of reminiscent of Flynn and Schaub. Jake Locker. Ryan Fitzpatrick. Ryan Mallett. There really isn’t a lot of there there to add to that ever-growing Browns jersey with the list of names.

Hoyer is among the free agents, and the Browns at least know him. He might be amenable to a deal that pays him if he performs -- with incentives for things like wins and playoff appearances -- but he will be starting with a new system as well.

Hoyer would not be afraid of competition, but given the water under the bridge, it would probably take a pretty significant offer for Hoyer not to at least see what is out there for him in free agency.

As for Manziel, the message seemed to be that nothing will be granted.

If Manziel earns the job, he earns it. But as of this moment, the job is not his. At least that is what DeFilippo and Pettine tried to convey.

DeFilippo is the sixth offensive coordinator in six seasons.

He’s just the latest to walk into the Browns annual uncertainty at the team’s most important position.
The Cleveland Browns made official the hiring of John DeFilippo as offensive coordinator late Tuesday.

The team’s news release had several quotes from coach Mike Pettine and DeFilippo on how he would approach the job.

The best news?

DeFilippo said he would not insist on changing everything just for the sake of change, that if the team is comfortable doing something a certain way or hearing it a certain way, he will not force the entire offense to adjust. Instead, he will adjust.

“We're going to make this offense, the transition, as simple as we can for our players,” DeFilippo said in a news release provided by the team.

He also said he would work with all the quarterbacks on the team equally.

“This isn't going to be my offense or ‘so and so's’ offense," DeFilippo said. "This is going to be the Cleveland Browns' offense. Whatever that is to get our best players the football, it's going to be very flexible.

"We're not going to just scrap something just because I'm here. I don't have that type of ego. If something's good that our players do well and they know, we're going to keep doing it.

"That's going to be my job here the next few weeks is I'm going to really study our last 16 games of this season and see what we're good at, see where it fits and see where it meshes with myself and Coach Pettine seeing this offense.”

Pettine called DeFillipo the "total package."

“That was a big part of it, making sure we weren't bringing in just a playbook ... we were bringing in a good person," Pettine said. "That, to me, is one of the biggest reasons why he's here.”

MOBILE, Ala. -- NFL teams interview dozens of players each year at the Senior Bowl, but I found it interesting that the Cleveland Browns were very impressed with Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty's demeanor in their talk with him, and notified of such on the field Wednesday. This is no surprise -- Petty comes across as genuine and is from a good family.

"Whatever it entails to be a great NFL quarterback, that’s what I want to do," Petty told reporters after a Senior Bowl practice session.

Petty is adjusting from Baylor's no-huddle offense to an NFL system, which could take time. Petty looked rusty in the first session Tuesday, but threw with more confidence Wednesday. Oregon State's Sean Mannion might have looked the most comfortable among quarterbacks throwing Wednesday morning.

But Petty could be an intriguing option for the Browns, possibly as a one- or two-year stash option to develop him behind the scenes. Petty has good size (6-foot-2 3/4, 230 pounds) and wasn't overly accurate at Baylor (low-60s completion percentages) but made up for that by averaging nearly 10 yards per passing attempt over two seasons as a starter. He's athletic for his size, notching 20 rushing touchdowns the last two seasons.

"I hope they are patient and understand I want to be here and learn," Petty said about whichever team drafts him. "I’m going to give it all I’ve got, that’s for sure. Step one is being here."

Petty admits he's had to think through plays the first two days at the Senior Bowl, which is less ideal than mastering the concepts and reacting, but he's getting more comfortable every day.

He knows the last two high-profile Big 12 quarterbacks, Robert Griffin III and Brandon Weeden, have had their struggles in the pros. Weeden was out of a starting job in Cleveland after two years.

"All that will and prove that I can learn an NFL offense and hopefully it won't be two years -- it will be 15," said Petty, who noted he would be comfortable going "anywhere" on the NFL map. "I have no doubt I can transition. It’s just about getting in there and doing it."
The Cleveland Browns didn't draft Derek Carr, but they hired the quarterbacks coach who guided him.

That the coach just so happened to interview to be the team's offensive coordinator a year ago probably was a pleasant coincidence.

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John DeFilippo, a 36-year-old Youngstown, Ohio, native, will take over for Kyle Shanahan. The team is expected to make the announcement Wednesday.

What this means about Johnny Manziel will remain to be seen, but it's pretty clear the Browns' emphasis was on finding someone they believe could get the most out of him.

DeFilippo's resume shows a lot of work with young quarterbacks.

Carr had a better-than-expected rookie season, throwing for 3,270 yards, 21 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. DeFilippo will be tied to his rookie season.

In 2013, DeFilippo was responsible for Terrelle Pryor and Matt McGloin, and they threw for a combined 3,345 yards.

The major concern: He has never called plays in the NFL, though he did when he was offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach at San Jose State in 2011, according to his bio in the Raiders' media guide.

In 2011, San Jose State averaged 30 runs per game and 40 passes. The team gained 276 yards passing per game, 101 rushing.

Quarterback Matt Faulkner was credited for throwing for 3,149 yards, but he had 13 interceptions to go with 13 touchdowns.

His numbers with DeFilippo calling plays translate to an NFL passer rating of 84.7.

In the NFL, DeFilippo has been a quality control coach for the Giants, assistant quarterbacks coach for the Jets and twice was quarterbacks coach for the Raiders -- the stints sandwiched around his tenure at San Jose State.

Was DeFilippo hired to maximize Manziel? The Browns didn't hire several veteran coordinators who, in theory at least, might be more set in their ways.

Shanahan left the Browns in part because he didn't believe in Manziel, according to several sources.

The Browns turned to a coordinator coach Mike Pettine worked with in New York and interviewed one year ago, a young coordinator who has had experience with young quarterbacks.

It's not too complicated to connect all these dots.
Johnny Manziel had a rocky rookie season, but his jerseys sold well enough in the offseason that he ranks fifth in the NFL in jersey sales at Dick’s Sporting Goods.

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That information came in a jersey sale report posted by the store. The page includes all kinds of interesting ways to compare jersey sales, and see how they progressed during the season.

Manziel’s sales ranked overall behind Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson and Luke Kuechly.

However, Manziel’s sales dropped as the season progressed.

Around the time of the draft, a chart on the the sporting goods site (click on Manziel's name) shows that Manziel had 55 percent of the jersey sales. That number was at 5 percent around the time of the season opener and at zero percent by season’s end. By comparison, New England quarterback Tom Brady was at 3 percent in May and 24 percent by last week.

In July, the NFL reported that Manziel's jersey led all sales at NFLShop.com.

Manziel is the fourth-ranked offensive player in jersey sales at Dick's, and the top rookie. The Browns ranked fifth in the league in overall jersey sales, behind Seattle, Denver, Carolina and Chicago. Joe Haden was the Browns' top selling defensive jersey, third overall, with Donte Whitner 21st. Offensively, Brian Hoyer was the second-ranked Brown, 28th among players on that side of the ball.
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A couple years back I had the honor and pleasure of being able to sit down with Ted Ginn Sr. for an interview about 'What He'd Learned' for Cleveland Magazine.

Ginn is a Cleveland legend, the football coach and product of Glenville High School. But he’s more than a coach. He’s a leader in his community, a man who develops kids into men and helps them rise out of difficult circumstances. The Browns' Donte Whitner is one of many who have gone on to success after playing for Ginn.

When I talked to him, Ginn had just recovered from a bout with pancreatic cancer. He explained he was a living miracle and he was brought back to do important work.

Some of the things Ginn said then resonated when quarterback Cardale Jones announced Thursday that he would return to Ohio State to get his degree.

"One of the most important things for me is to graduate," Jones said.

Ginn runs The Ginn Academy, and kids who go to school there play at Glenville, where he coaches.

But Ginn said he doesn’t like football.

"It gets in the way of the truth," he said. "It gets in the way of what we’re really trying to do. We’re trying to save lives."

His purpose with football?

"You teach them how to take football and education and navigate their way throughout the world," he said. "It takes money to be educated. It takes money to live. It takes money to raise, to guide. They have to understand how to parlay all that stuff into how to be a man, a great father, a great kid, a leader."

Ginn talked about where he lives, works and grew up and admitted "people make us think we’re nowhere."

His view: "This is a diamond mine, brother. I’m the only person who stayed after 30 or 40 years. People been walking among all these diamonds, without picking them up. They didn’t pick me up. And all I did was pick them up, brush them off and polish them off."

Jones is a product of that environment. He played for Glenville, then went to Ohio State where he made mistakes. Jones has gone from an infamous tweet he posted as a freshman asking why he had to go to class, to deciding that getting his degree is his top priority. Ginn never gives up on one of his pupils, and when Jones made his announcement Ginn stood behind him.

Jones seems to have grown up. He says many right things. He accepts all that happened to him with the national championship with humility and amazement. He will make mistakes again -- don’t we all -- but he’s come a long way. And he’s staying in college to finish his education because he said that is what is important.

There was some pushback and snark at Jones’ decision. Why have a news conference if he’s staying?

Which is fine if you haven’t been around Ginn or the Ginn Academy or Glenville. The idea behind having Jones make this announcement on Thursday was to send the message to the other kids in Cleveland who were listening.

Education matters, and who better to hear it from than one of their own, who skipped the easy money and took the longer route.

Ginn does not let his kids turn left when walking in the hallways at The Ginn Academy.

"They come out of a door, and their next class is a few feet away, I make them walk all the way around to go in that door to their left," Ginn said. "They ask why, and I say, 'That’s the shortcut. Go right, man. Just stay right.' ... Because if you do everything right, you can’t go wrong."

Jones seems to have listened to that lesson.
CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Browns are expected to interview Buffalo Bills senior offensive assistant coach Jim Hostler late this week, according to a source.

Hostler, a former 49ers offensive coordinator who also served as Ravens wide receivers coach for six seasons, is at least the third candidate to visit this week, joining New York Jets-bound Chan Gailey and former Bears coach Marc Trestman.

Hostler was coordinator for one year with the 49ers as part of the Mike Nolan regime. The 49ers failed to score more than 20 points in all but two games that year.

Easily the Browns' most experienced candidate is Trestman, who was in the building Wednesday, but Trestman also got a call from new Raiders coach Jack Del Rio, who might want to hire him. The Raiders have a promising quarterback in Derek Carr. Trestman's two-year stint in Chicago fizzled, but he's known as a stout playcaller who's good with managing quarterbacks. (Josh McCown threw for 13 touchdowns to one interception for Trestman in 2013.)

If the Browns let Trestman walk, who's the backup plan? Position coaches won't elicit excitement among Browns fans who just watched a lot of bad offense in November and December.

Jets running backs coach Anthony Lynn seems like a strong candidate. The Jets finished third in the NFL in rushing last year, and the Jaguars also reportedly want to interview Lynn.

Pettine seems to be drawing on familiar faces from his Bills/Ravens/Jets days. The Browns will make clear soon enough whether those interviews produced a new coordinator or a bunch of talking.

Whoever takes the job will have a challenge -- mold Johnny Manziel (or a new quarterback) into a winner, or else lame-duck status awaits.
The Cleveland Browns and Jordan Cameron both have decisions to make.

Cameron is headed to free agency; the Browns have to decide if they want to retain him, and at what cost.

It’s important to know what kind of player Cameron is when discussing him, because Cameron brings unique talents to the tight end position.

Consider:

  • Cameron led all NFL tight ends last season with four receptions of at least 40 yards. The two longest -- for 81 and 51 yards -- were for touchdowns against Carolina and Pittsburgh; the other two were for 47 and 42 against Pittsburgh, according to Pro Football Reference.
  • ESPN Stats and Information reports that since 2001, only two tight ends -- Jimmy Graham in 2013 and Vernon Davis in 2010 -- had more than four 40-yard plays in a season, both with five.
  • In that time, only three tight ends have had at least four big plays of that nature in a season: Davis, Graham and Cameron.
  • Last season, Cameron doubled the second-highest total, as Washington’s Niles Paul, Tennessee’s Delanie Walker and Indianapolis’ Coby Fleener had two plays of 40 yards or more.

Clearly Cameron brings something unique. Antonio Gates and Rob Gronkowski would be the prototype tight ends of the past 15 or so years. Gates has seven career receptions longer than 40 yards, but never more than one in a season. Gronk has six in his career, never more than three in a season.

[+] EnlargeJordan Cameron
Ken Blaze/USA TODAY SportsJordan Cameron has unique speed and big-play ability for a tight end.
Cameron was a fourth-round pick in the Tom Heckert era after playing one year at tight end at USC. He started as a basketball player at BYU, decided to play football and transferred to USC, where he moved from receiver to tight end his senior season.

He basically made a name for himself at the combine, where his athletic ability opened eyes. Cameron admits testing had nothing to do with football, but it got him drafted.

Because he hadn’t played much, the Browns did not play him a lot as a rookie. But in training camp before his second season, Mike Holmgren singled out Cameron as the player most ready to make a significant leap.

He was one year early. Cameron improved his second season, but became a Pro Bowler in 2013 with 80 catches for 917 yards and seven touchdowns. He and Josh Gordon both helped themselves to career seasons in the Norv Turner/Rob Chudzinski downfield offense.

Cameron’s production dropped this season to 24 catches for 424 yards and two TDs for two reasons. With Gordon suspended, Cameron drew much of the defensive attention -- and double-teams. Because of that, Brian Hoyer turned to wideouts Miles Austin, Taylor Gabriel and Andrew Hawkins.

They all contributed, which affected Cameron, whose total targets dropped from 118 to 48.

He also was injured, first with a shoulder issue and then with a concussion that sidelined him five games. The concussion was the result of a late hit from Oakland’s Brandian Ross, a brutal hit that snapped Cameron’s head forward in a way that looked scary. Ross was fined heavily for the hit and wound up playing that week for free.

Cameron spent weeks trying to regain his mental well-being but never hesitated to come back, playing in the team’s final three games. His 81-yard reception in the fourth quarter against Carolina briefly gave the Browns the lead.

Any team that signs him, including the Browns, has to keep in mind he has had three concussions in three years.

Still, Cameron represents the new breed of tight ends made popular by Gates and Bill Belichick’s New England offense. Cameron is 6-foot-4 and 245 pounds and can run away from safeties. He has excellent hands and can get downfield and make plays. His signature catch came in the win over Pittsburgh, when he reached back in full stride and snagged a well-thrown ball in front of two Steelers, then ran away from them for a touchdown. The TD came from reading the defense, as Cameron adjusted his route and Hoyer saw it and found him.

In four seasons, Cameron has 130 catches, 1,600 yards and 10 touchdowns.

In those four seasons, he also had nine quarterbacks, four offensive coordinators, three tight end coaches, three general managers and three head coaches.

The latest coach/GM tandem talks of wanting guys who will “play like a Brown.” Cameron embodies everything the team talks about when it uses that phrase.

He’s tough, humble, dedicated and professional. He doesn’t complain or cause problems, but he does take accountability.

As the Browns decide how to approach his future, they have a lot to weigh.

But as Cameron looks to free agency, it would seem he’s in a good spot.

What NFL team would not want a professional who can provide the big plays Cameron has given the Browns?
CLEVELAND -- Former Chicago Bears coach Marc Trestman and Raiders quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo are expected to be involved in the Browns' offensive coordinator search and the team could start interviews early next week, according to sources.

Several names surfaced in media reports Saturday morning, inluding 49ers coordinator Greg Roman and Raiders coordinator Al Saunders, according to NFL Network.

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The Browns are taking this week to evaluate the offense in light of Kyle Shanahan's departure amid whispers of dissatisfaction with the Browns' personnel department and the quarterback situation. Wide-ranging meetings with personnel execs and coaches evaluated the team's quarterback situation and Johnny Manziel's place in it.

The Browns formally announced Shanahan's resignation and quarterback coach Dowell Loggains' firing, saying Shanahan's departure is "in the best interest of the Cleveland Browns" after conversations with him this week. Moving on from Loggains was difficult but necessary, coach Mike Pettine said in a statement.

"Our focus quickly turns to finding an outstanding coach to lead our offense and I am confident we will bring in highly qualified individuals to help us develop, improve and achieve the success we are all seeking," Pettine said.

Shanahan said in the Browns' release that he regrets how "the inner workings of the organization were represented publicly over the last few days," likely referring to a Cleveland.com report on Tuesday that Shanahan was willing to accept a lateral job to get out of Cleveland, and that at least one non-coaching staffer was suggesting play calls via texts to the sideline. The NFL is investigating the matter.

DeFilippo, who talked with coach Mike Pettine about the offensive coordinator job last year that went to Shanahan, has acquitted himself well after working with Derek Carr, who threw for nearly 3,300 yards, 21 touchdowns and 12 interceptions as a rookie.

Trestman, who was offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach of the Browns in 1988-89, is known as a good offensive mind, but his Bears limped to a 5-11 finish despite elite playmakers, though it's noteworthy Jay Cutler wasn't his style of quarterback. He prefers a quarterback suited for his West Coast system, of which the Browns have principles from Shanahan's offense.

Candidates for the job might be asked these two things:

1. Can you make Manziel better?

2. How well can you work with different styles of quarterbacks, Manziel or otherwise? This gives the Browns flexibility with the position.

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