He's only in his second season, but it's been a unique NFL career so far for MarQueis Gray. Usually, the first time I mention a player's name, I like to preface it with their position. When it comes to Gray, though, there really is no clear-cut position to label him by.
He was a quarterback in college. After going undrafted in 2013, the 49ers signed him. At first, they tried utilizing him at running back before shifting him to tight end, both of which were new experiences for him. Last year, he was a reserve tight end for the Browns, but also participated in the Wildcat package, where he had 6 runs for 43 yards on the season. In 2014, with a new coaching staff in place, the new position the team is utilizing Gray at is fullback. This past Tuesday, Browns head coach Mike Pettine spoke about the benefits of having a player who can shift from fullback to tight end, and can catch passes, and the complications that creates for opposing defenses.
On Browns TE MarQueis Gray playing fullback at practice: "He just started. He's truly a work in progress, but there's some good examples around the league – the guy down in Miami, (Dolphins TE Charles) Clay I think, is a good example. Just from a defensive standpoint when you look at it, when you have a guy that can be a fullback that can also be a tight end that you can also extend him from the formation, that really causes problems defensively.
Usually, if a true fullback's in the game, OK we're going to get two-back runs, two-back passes potentially. True tight ends in the game, then it really compartmentalizes your calls because you have a pretty good feel for what you're going to get. But when you have a guy that's that versatile it really forces defenses to kind of double or triple call what they're in or water down what they're doing to really try to be a catch-all. I think that's something that we're going to look at doing. We'll still be in the mode of deciding ‘Are we going to have a true fullback or are we going to use a tight end to be that second fullback?' We're still very much early on in that process, but part of that process was putting him there, kind of throwing him in there and see what he can do."
On if Gray has interesting skills: "Yeah. He's a guy that I think in the zone scheme you don't have to be that downhill, thumper fullback where it's block down, go through, lead up on the linebacker where you're more getting on guys and getting on edges and running your feet. The style of blocking is very similar to what he's doing as a tight end anyway. I think that it's a much easier transition for him here."
George Thomas of the Akron Beacon Journal recently had an interview with Gray, where he asked him about the progress of his transition:
"One thing I am lacking is just the size," Gray said. "Quickness is what I’m bringing more to the fullback position. ... I would say my preferred position is being on this team. But if they need me to play fullback, tight end or H-back, I’m all for that."
One of the things that has been difficult to get a pulse on is how the team views RB Chris Ogbonnaya, who was considered the starting fullback in 2013. The Browns could be trying out Gray at fullback just as an additional option to Ogbonnaya, or they could view him as an alternative starter. There could be a case when Ogbonnaya and Gray aren't even on the roster by the start of the season, especially if somebody like undrafted free agent Ray Agnew shows anything impressive in camp.