Winslow gives Browns instant upgrade

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 27, 2004

BEREA - If Kellen Winslow Jr. has only 331 receiving yards and three touchdowns this season, critics would probably rate it as a disappointing rookie year for the heralded tight end.

But it would equal the production the Cleveland Browns got from all five of their tight ends in 2003.

The Browns obviously have a new weapon with the speedy, sure-handed Winslow - his 25-yard reception in a preseason game against Detroit was longer than any catch by a Cleveland tight end last year. They also have some depth at the position for the first time.

Email newsletter signup

Chad Mustard, who was playing for indoor football's Omaha Beef in 2002, appeared in 10 games for Cleveland last season following injuries to Steve Heiden and Aaron Shea.

Mustard is now competing with Shea and Darnell Sanders to make the team behind Winslow and Heiden.

''It's brutal. Everyone's been having such a good camp,'' Mustard said Thursday.

Sanders has just 18 catches in two seasons and has yet to show he was worth a fourth-round draft pick in 2002 after he left Ohio State a year early.

Browns coach Butch Davis said this week that it would have benefited Sanders to stay in college and gain maturity and strength. That said, Davis gave him a positive review.

''I have seen significant improvement in his game in the last year,'' Davis said. ''He has had a good camp. He has a really good attitude about looking at the things that our coaching staff said that he needed to work on.''

Shea has been plagued by injuries. He played just 11 games the last two seasons and has finished the last three seasons on injured reserve.

''To go through something and then get hurt again, it's just one of those things that's frustrating,'' he said.

Shea has been used as an H-back in the past and is currently listed on Cleveland's depth chart as a fullback behind starter Terrelle Smith.

Quarterback Jeff Garcia said Shea and Sanders have done all they can to prove themselves.

''You can't ask any more out of those two guys, especially dealing with the circumstances that they are dealing with,'' Garcia said. ''They are not necessarily in the top two. They are fighting for a third and fourth spot and really probably wondering if there is a spot for them on this football team.''

Heiden led Cleveland tight ends with a career-high 18 catches for 134 yards last season despite missing the final seven games with an ankle injury. His duties on three special team units ensure him of a roster spot.

Heiden said he doesn't expect all five tight ends to make the team, but Davis wouldn't rule it out.

''There is going to be some very heated discussion to try and figure out who are the very best 53 players for this team,'' Davis said. ''Special teams will definitely play a role in determining who will make this team after the guys that are a slam dunk as starters and guys who can play multiple positions.''

Davis said Winslow, who is still catching up after a 12-day holdout, is progressing well, but won't see an increased role in the offense yet. Winslow is still listed behind Heiden on the depth chart.

''He is smart and unselfish enough to realize that there are some things that he is behind in and there are situations where he will just continue to improve and get better,'' Davis said.

Winslow has not talked to the media since Aug. 17, when he suggested that the Browns should be more intense and aggressive. He said Thursday he's decided not to do interviews for a while.

''I'm just laying low,'' he said.

INJURY UPDATE: DB Chris Crocker, who suffered a concussion in the Detroit game, will not play Saturday at Kansas City. He hopes to return for the final preseason game Sept. 3 against Chicago.