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Unknown, But Important Contributors – Cleveland Browns Edition

This team has a back-up QB that is nationally known, but he probably won’t contribute much on Sunday. Other guys that you don’t know much about will.

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

UBIC - Offense

Gary Barnidge (TE - #82) And back we go into the TE well yet again.  Barnidge is actually a true UBIC, not even getting any notoriety in the run-up to the 2008 draft.  He was taken that year, in the 5th round by the Carolina Panthers and has been a depth chart afterthought for all but two of his years in the NFL.  If he starts this Sunday, as he has for two of the Browns' first 3 games, it will be the 28th start of his career.  His other starts happened as a result of injuries further up the depth chart.

This year, the 30-year-old out of Louisville has been one of the primary weapons in the Browns' passing game.  While that offense has not been a statistical or aesthetic thing of beauty, the Browns do have one less passing TD (5) than the Chargers (6).  Barnidge has one of them.  He is also tied for 1st on his team for catches (10) and second in receiving yards (160).  A 16 yard per reception average is not too shabby for a wide receiver and remarkable for a TE.

Barnidge is a little unusual for the role of a ‘joker' or ‘move' TE.  He has the height (6'5"), but not the weight (240) or the speed usually associated with a pass-catching TE.  The non-elite athleticism is made up for by veteran smarts, disciplined route running, and a decent release off the line.  He has displayed a recent knack for finding soft spots in coverage and has been able to use that to produce well so far in 2015.  The Browns are hoping he can have a good day against the Bolts LB's and Safeties.

Honorable Mention

Travis Benjamin (WR - #11) Benjamin gets the honorable mention nod due to his waiver claim status in fantasy leagues over the last two weeks; he is actually becoming known.  He has all 4 of the Browns other receiving TD's and has added another punt return to the Promised Land so far this year.  5 TD's in 3 games will get a player on the radar in a hurry.  For Benjamin, though, this display of capability in the passing game came from virtually out of nowhere.

Drafted out of Miami in the 4th round of the 2012 draft, Benjamin has only stayed in the league due to his ability as a kick returner.  That part of his game has never been in question; the punt he returned for a TD earlier this season was the 3rd of his career.  Small (5'10" and 170 pounds) and fast, he probably would have been higher on the Browns depth chart if had shown functional hands prior to this season.

From 2012 through 2014, he was targeted a total of 96 times and had a total of 41 catches.  This season, he has had 17 balls thrown in his vicinity and he has caught 10 of them for 249 (not a typo - 2*4*9) yards and the already mentioned 4 scores.  He and Verrett should have an interesting battle on Sunday.

UBIC - Defense

Donte Whitner (S - #31) The Browns are Mr. Whitner's 3rd team in a 10 year NFL career.  The 30-year-old Strong Safety has seemed to get better with experience, going to 3 straight Pro-Bowls since 2012.  He was on the 49ers' Super Bowl team.  He is the Browns' second-leading tackler so far this season.

For a hard-hitting safety, has had remarkable durability during his career; this will be his 133rd start since joining the Buffalo Bills out of Ohio State as the 8th overall pick of the 2006 draft.  His lack of injury history is even more noteworthy given the violence with which he plays the game.  He is known as "Hitner" or "Lights Out" depending on who you talk to.  He relishes his role as an intimidator.

Whitner is excellent in run support and has enough savvy to rarely bite on play fakes.  The 5'11" 205-pound safety is one of the smaller strong safeties in the league but makes his presence known all too often to running backs on wheel or Texas routes and receivers working seam or post routes.  I suspect that he will be paying particular attention to Woodhead and Gordon on Sunday.

Honorable Mention

Armonte Bryant (DE - #95) Bryant is probably licking his chops at the possibilities for this game.  Drafted out East Oklahoma in the 7th round of 2013's draft, Bryant has developed into a pass-rushing specialist in the Brown's 3-4 defense.  He has only started one game this year, but rotates in frequently, especially in passing situations.  He already has 2.5 sacks this season.  The 6'4" 265 pound Brown is quick enough to be disruptive rushing QB's, but does lack the typical bulk of a lineman in the 3-4 system.  He is certainly looking forward to competing against whomever the Chargers can put on the O-line and rushing Philip Rivers.