In early March, Coach Flip talked with Nathan Zegura about his vision for the Browns offense. Here's what he had to say about the tight end position:
"Well, we have two types of tight ends. We have a 'Y", which is a true 'Y', which is a 'Hey, I'm going to block a 7-technique on Power, I'm going to reach a 9-technique on outside zone.' That's a true 'Y' and I feel like we have two of those guys right now in Dray and Barnidge.
"The thing we're in the constant market for -- and everybody's in the market for -- is that 'F' position. That guy that can move around, be a mismatch on a linebacker, can run a choice route, get in and out of breaks on third-and-four, can win against man-to-man coverage. So that's, I think, what we're in the market for and a lot of teams in this league are in the market for, is that guy that's going to be able to move around in different places, go outside. We saw in the Super Bowl Gronkowski outside running a slant, running a Saturn route -- which is a fade-stop. Everybody's looking for that personnel mismatch to be able to go out and do those things and it just totally broadens the field for you, it widens the field for you. It makes you much more diverse."
When asked about if he wanted to have a dedicated fullback, he referred back to his discussion of tight ends:
"Yeah, I do. Like I talked about, I want that 'F' player that we talked about earlier to kind of have that role too. In our blocking scheme, in the zone blocking scheme, very rarely do you ask the fullback to go isolate a Mike linebacker, isolate a Will linebacker. He needs to get a piece and get that 'backer moving, get that support player moving and just get him running. So if you were going to ask me do I want that old school, downhill [fullback] or do you want a little bit more versatile 'F', I'd take the versatile 'F' player any day of the week."
So, who is Rob Housler and how would he fit into Flip's offense?
Housler was a 3rd round pick for the Cardinals in the 2011 draft. Here are his combine results, as reported by NFL Draft Scout:
6'5" 248 bench: 22 reps
40 dash: 4.55 10-yard: 1.58
vertical: 37" broad: 9'9"
shuttle: 4.21 3-cone: 6.90
Nice 40 time, 10-yard split, vertical, short shuttle, and 3-cone. Mediocre bench and especially broad jump.
This actually paints a fairly accurate picture of what he was in his four years with the Cardinals:
- good deep speed, can threaten the seam
- quick off the line and into his routes
- not a great route runner
- big catch radius
- adjusts well to off-target throws, good body control
- slow recovery after catch to turn upfield (poor balance)
- needs to catch in space to be threat after the catch
- poor blocker, oversized receiver-type tight end
- high-cut, thin lower body, no anchor
Below are his career statistics (taken from NFL.com)
G GS Rec Yds Avg Lng TD FUM
2014 15 7 9 129 14.3 27 0 1
2013 13 10 39 454 11.6 31 1 1
2012 15 9 45 417 9.3 33 0 0
2011 12 2 12 133 11.1 21 0 1
Total 55 28 105 1133 10.8 33 1 3
According to his AZCardinals.com bio, he has a lengthy history of missing games due to short-term injuries:
- 4 games in 2011 with a groin injury
- final 2 games of 2012 with a shoulder injury
- first 2 games of 2013 with pre-season ankle injury
- another 2013 game with a groin injury
- one 2014 game with a hip injury
In Flip's terms, Housler is not a "Y" blocking tight end, he's an "F" receiving tight end. He can contribute as a receiver and create match up problems for defenses because he's too fast and quick for many linebackers and has too big of a catch radius for defensive backs.
Housler would add to the depth chart and bring a different set of skills to the table than Dray and Barnidge. However, the Browns will still be looking for a tight end prospect in the draft. Rob Housler isn't well-rounded enough and he has too many injury concerns to be relied upon to be "the guy" at tight end for the Browns. That being said, he would be a good addition to the team if the price is reasonable.
Below is one of his college games, against Michigan State. He mostly lines up as a inline tight end here but he displays his ability to adjust to passes, his quickness, speed, toughness...and also his limited blocking ability.