BEREA (92.3 The Fan) – When Gary Barnidge was released on the second day of the NFL Draft, there likely was no one more disappointed than Seth DeValve.
Last season, Barnidge was a mentor for DeValve, who picked the former Pro Bowler’s brain at every possible moment.
But while the door closed on Barnidge in Cleveland, another opened for him to showcase his play-making ability in his second season with the Browns.
“It’s really just a matter of opportunity,” DeValve, who was selected in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft, said Monday. “We’ve got a young tight end room with the releasing of Gary [Barnidge]. It’s been different without him but there’s been a lot of opportunity for guys like me to step up and take that role, or at least a big portion of that role. I feel that I’m ready to do it.”
Even with the Browns’ selection of Miami tight end David Njoku 29th overall, the spotlight in camp has been on DeValve.
Browns head coach Hue Jackson has high expectations for him in 2017.
“He is an emerging player,” Jackson said. “I really liked Seth coming out. Last year, I think he would be the first to tell you with all of the injuries and the newness of the National Football League that it was tough. He is stronger. He is bigger. He works hard. He studies hard.”
That’s high praise from a coach that requires a lot from the position within his offense.
“It means that I’m headed in the right direction, that’s for sure,” DeValve said in response to Jackson’s comments.
The Browns thought the 6-foot-3, 245 pound DeValve, who was a receiver in college, was perfect for one of the toughest positions to play in the league.
“The tight ends are asked to do a lot,” DeValve said. “Mentally, we’re maybe second or third behind the quarterback and center in terms of what we need to know. We need to know all the protections, all the pass game, the run game, sometimes you gotta block, hand in the ground 4-3 defensive ends, you gotta be able to run routes on corners. So, you gotta be big and fast and agile and it’s definitely a niche position and there is a lot to learn for sure.”
As a rookie, DeValve appeared in 12 games with 2 starts where he caught 10 passes for 127 yards, including a pair of touchdowns.
He also missed 4 weeks due to a knee injury suffered in Week 3 at Miami. DeValve also missed 10 days early in training camp because of a hamstring injury and he missed 4 games during his final season at Princeton due to a pair of separate injuries.
That injury history is why DeValve made health and conditioning a priority as he prepared for his second NFL training camp.
“You have to train smart, you have to train very specific to what you have to do out here and you have to take good care of yourself,” DeValve said. “I’ve actually changed what I’m doing from a training standpoint in the offseason and in our downtime in season to keep myself healthy and able to be out here every day and doing what I’m doing.
“That’s the biggest difference, me having the time to just practice just to play and that’s where improvement comes.”
As for opportunity, DeValve doesn’t view Njoku as a threat to his potential playing time.
“That’s the NFL in a lot of ways – you’re friends and competitors at the same time,” DeValve said. “In our situation, there’s room to be had at the tight end position in today’s game where there’s not just one guy on the field at one time.
“Tight end is a demanding position where you can’t necessarily take every snap like a quarterback can. We’re helping each other get better because we know that we’re all going to be needed at some point in time and a lot of times at the same time.”
Njoku has struggled with securing the football through the first 4 practices. He was stripped twice on Friday by defenders and had a few drops over the weekend including a would-be touchdown catch in a red zone period.
“He’s going through that adjustment period right now where guys are violently stripping the ball at all times or attempting to strip the ball and where guys are hitting you at the catch point,” DeValve said. “He’s doing fine. That happens whether you’re a first-round pick or free agent. He’s fine.”