Rob Housler eager to add pass-catching dimension to Browns

CLEVELAND -- New Browns tight end Rob Housler isn’t making excuses for his nine-catch performance last year, but he admits the number was a “direct reflection of the opportunities” in Arizona.

“I just went out there and did what they asked me to do,” Housler said on a Friday conference call with local reporters about his 129-yard season. “I can see the stats and it wasn’t pretty.”

Well, this team has something to ask him, too -- help on third down with middle-of-field playmaking from the tight end spot.

Things weren’t pretty in Cleveland, either. Even with Jordan Cameron for 10 games, the Browns’ three-headed tight end crew caught 54 passes for 822 yards and three touchdowns over a combined 39 games. Fourteen different NFL tight ends surpassed that reception total by themselves, while six had more than 822 yards.

With Cameron signing a two-year deal with Miami, Jim Dray and Gary Barnidge return after 30 catches and 398 yards of 2014 production.

By default, Housler should have a bounce-back year. Housler recorded 84 catches for 871 yards from 2012-13, so perhaps the Browns will find he has more potential to showcase.

“I think I can definitely be a pass threat, especially down the middle,” said Housler, who ran a 4.46-second 40-yard-dash at the 2011 NFL combine. “It’s keeping teams off balance. Being a little biased, having two tight ends on the field, that’s what I prefer.”

The Browns utilize two-tight-end sets in part because they ran the ball 477 times last year, the sixth-highest total in the NFL. Housler’s strength isn’t pass-blocking, which helps explain his production dip in Bruce Arians’ offense.

The Browns can use Dray as an anchor blocker, Housler for playmaking and Barnidge for all-around work . If Housler truly wants to take ownership of the job, he can improve his one-touchdown-per-55-games average in the NFL.

“I’m all about [consistency] – I need to be more consistent,” Housler said.