Weeden has new target in Bess

CLEVELAND – Besides the five big guys that line up in front of him, quarterback Brandon Weeden’s best buddy on the Browns’ roster might be receiver Davone Bess.

The chemistry between the two is obvious in each practice. Bess has an ability to find open spots in coverage, and Weeden has shown a tendency to rely on him when other options aren’t available.

After a practice at First Energy Stadium last Saturday, Weeden said, “You know what you’re going to get with Bess. You’re going to get a good route runner and you’re going to get a guy who can catch the ball in third-down situations. We’ve got some guys, but Bess is a guy I’m going to rely on. He knows that.”

Strong words from Weeden, who can also look to starters Josh Gordon and Greg Little. Bess is a prototypical slot receiver – small, quick and intelligent. He knows how to dissect coverages and find soft spots in zones, and he can work an opponent’s weakness in man coverage.

Those qualities are why the Browns traded with the Miami Dolphins to acquire Bess’ services. There was a big need for a dependable slot receiver, and Bess, who had 61 receptions for 778 yards last season, fit the bill.

Bess, who made the Dolphins as an undrafted rookie in 2008, is smart enough to know his role. He’s not going to win many physical battles on the outside against big cornerbacks at 5-foot-10 and 195 pounds. Lining up on the inside and giving Weeden short- to mid-range options is what he does best.

“Being a receiver we’re getting better every day of looking at the whole coverage – at the whole shell – instead of just our guy,” Bess said. “There are certain things that the quarterback sees that we don’t see and can cause him not to come our way. We try to win our matchup, and that’s what we do as a receiver.”

The use of slot receivers in three- and four-receiver sets has become the norm in the pass-oriented NFL. Put a talented, big receiver on the outside that draws double coverage, and there’s no way defenses can double the slot guys.

Bess had an advantage in learning what’s expected of slot receivers playing for June Jones at the University of Hawaii. Jones, currently the coach at SMU, is an advocate of the run-and-shoot offense. The offense is predicated on reads made by receivers based on the alignment of defenders.

“I was fortunate to have played for June Jones at Hawaii,” Bess said. “He would actually teach us from the quarterback’s perspective. Find the soft spots in the zones. How to read coverages on the run. It became pretty natural as I got to the league.”

Bess, 27, will be counted on to add leadership to a group of young receivers. He has an infectious personality that’s easy to like, but he’s been careful to not overstep what he considers his boundary lines as a new teammate.

“I know I’m the new guy coming in,” Bess said. “I didn’t want to rub those guys the wrong way, like I’m a know-it-all-type of player. That’s not even the case because I’m learning from them every day.

“At the same time I’ve had some experience. I’m open to sharing those experiences in any way, shape or form, whether it’s on or off the field. That’s how our camaraderie builds.”

Bess will be valuable to the Browns in more ways than one.