Editor’s note: This is the fourth part of a weeklong series about Browns players who are expected to vie for starting jobs or other important roles during training camp, which opens to the public Saturday in Berea.
BATTLES OF BEREA: FULLBACKS AND TIGHT ENDS
Players to watch: Fullbacks — Owen Marecic (6-foot, 245 pounds, second year) and Brad Smelley (6-2, 235 pounds, rookie). Tight ends — Benjamin Watson (6-3, 255 pounds, ninth year); Evan Moore (6-6, 250 pounds, fourth year); Alex Smith (6-4, 258 pounds, eighth year); and Jordan Cameron (6-5, 245 pounds, second year).
2011 stats: Marecic (four carries for 8 yards and five catches for 31 yards); Smelley (at Alabama — one carry, 1 yard, 34 catches, 356 yards, four touchdowns); Watson (37 catches for 410 yards and two touchdowns); Moore (34 catches, 324 yards, four touchdowns); Smith (14 catches, 131 yards, one touchdown); and Cameron (six catches, 33 yards).
Analysis: Marecic is in better shape than he was last season, and he hopes playing 10-15 pounds lighter will help him improve. As a rookie, Marecic failed to show he’s a reliable receiver out of the backfield, and to retain his role as the Browns’ top fullback, he must hold off Smelley, who proved himself as a receiving threat when he played H-back in college. Watson has a firm grip on the top spot among the tight ends. Moore must continue to fight to become more involved in the offense, especially with Cameron pushing for increased playing time. Coach Pat Shurmur has praised Cameron of late, crediting him for making the greatest strides this offseason among all the players at his position. Smith is not a formidable weapon in the passing game, but he’s the best blocking tight end on the team. Still, Smith, who also played some fullback last season, will need to fight for a job because there probably won’t be enough room for him, Marecic and Smelley on the final roster.
Ulrich’s take: Last season, Marecic had two concussions and Watson suffered three, so their health is worth monitoring closely. Smelley impressed in spring practices, and the coaches value his versatility. They experimented with him at tight end, but he lined up as a fullback the majority of the time. Marecic, though, is still the favorite to top the depth chart at fullback, so don’t count on him being supplanted. Meanwhile, expect an interesting competition between Moore and Cameron. Moore inexplicably disappeared from the offensive game plan at times last season. With Cameron making progress, Shurmur sounds as if he’s willing to give him every opportunity to earn more playing time, which, of course, could limit Moore’s chances to contribute.
Coming tomorrow: Wide receivers