Browns tight ends coach Greg Seamon has dubbed the players he oversees “Gary and the kids.” And Connor Hamlett is separating himself from the other kids.
Pro Bowl tight end Gary Barnidge is a lock to start, but the prominent role of the No. 2 tight end in coach Hue Jackson’s offense is up for grabs. Hamlett, Seth DeValve, E.J. Bibbs, J.P. Holtz, David Reeves and Randall Telfer are the competitors. Bibbs is the only one who has appeared in an NFL regular-season game.
But Hamlett, a 6-foot-7, 259-pound Oregon State product, looks like he’s the one best prepared to make a leap in his career. After a stellar spring, he’s been among the most pleasant surprises for the Browns through their first five practices of training camp.
Barnidge hasn’t been participating in team drills during camp because he’s still working his way back from June 2 sports hernia surgery. Hamlett has thrived in Barnidge’s starting spot. Hamlett had some injuries in college and contemplated retiring from football. Barnidge was an age-30 breakout player who put up great numbers last year 79-1,043-9 on 125 targets. His short fantasy resume doesn't make him a safe pick. Hamlett's progress and Barnidge's current injury makes this a situation to pay attention to.