Trevon Coley Jersey

Browns defensive tackle Trevon Coley is one of those special cases I mentioned in my introduction to these Breakout Players columns. Technically, he’s heading into his second year in the NFL, but he came out of college in 2016. Coley wasn’t drafted that year, and then signed with the Ravens as an undrafted free agent shortly thereafter.

It was a start, but ultimately Coley wouldn’t make it out of training camp that year with the Ravens. They released him and as the 2016 season opened, he found himself a man without a job. He would eventually make it back into the NFL by signing onto Washington’s practice squad at the end of that November, but he didn’t last very long and was released again a couple of weeks later.

When a guy can’t even stick on a practice squad for more than a few weeks, there is usually some question about whether he is made out to be an NFL player. I am sure Coley was starting to have some doubts of his own at that point. Fortunately for him, the Browns signed him to their practice squad a couple of days after Washington dropped him, and he remained there for the rest of that season. It could be humbling to be fired by the first two teams that gave you a shot.
But the truth is sometimes it’s just about finding the right fit. And Coley found his in Cleveland.

It’s really rather astonishing that Coley went from the chaos of bouncing around like that in his first year, not really knowing if he would even get another shot, to then turn around and earn a starting job at defensive tackle for the Browns last year. Hell, heading into training camp last summer, Coley was probably no better than third team on the depth chart, and maybe even worse than that. And yet he put in the work, showed what he could do, and ended up starting 15 games last season.

Coming from where he had been the previous year, 2017 would normally have definitely qualified as a breakout year for Coley, except for one thing:

After watching his film, I think he was just getting started.

Coley was the starting 3-technique last year, and in that position you have to be able to rush the passer at least as well as — but preferably better than — you play the run. The 3-technique usually lines up in the B gap and tries to wreak havoc up the field. Coley didn’t play at 3-technique exclusively, as the Browns like to move him around a little bit, especially on passing downs. However, he spent the majority of time as the 3-technique and while he played pretty well there last year, he still has plenty of room to grow.

Hue Jackson said that Trevon Coley will not play against the Lions on Thursday, but he returned to practicing with the team on Tuesday. Coley suffered a high ankle sprain early in training camp on Aug. 2 and had not practiced since.

“He is back,” Jackson said after Tuesday’s practice. “It was good to see him at practice. I am not going to put him out there this week [against Detroit]. We are going to make sure that he is ready. His injury was a little bit different. We will make sure that he is ready for Pittsburgh. I feel very encouraged that he will be ready to go.”

Barring any setbacks, Coley should be ready for the season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sept. 9th.

Coley made the team in 2017 and ended up becoming one of the starting defensive tackles. He started 15 games and finished with 41 tackles, including two sacks, two passes broken up and a fumble recovery. Coley led the Browns defensive linemen in tackles.

Coley (6-1, 310) bounced around NFL practice squads after signing as an undrafted rookie free agent from Florida Atlantic with the Ravens after the 2016 NFL Draft. He was waived after training camp and signed with the Redskins practice squad before being released in December, and then he signed with the Browns practice squad on Dec. 15.

Following the 2016 season, the Browns signed Coley and he took part in the team’s offseason program.

Coley said being an undrafted free agent helped him make the team.

“It happens,” he said. “If I could have written the story, it would have been written differently, but that is the challenge that was placed in front of me and I am all for it.”

Coley continued, “Of course, (being drafted) is what everybody wants, but it does not work out like that for everyone. I come out every day and think about it, what I have been through and just come out here and play as hard as I can every day.”

In his first preseason game as a rookie in 2017, Coley had four tackles, including a strip-sack and a forced fumble in the opener that set up the Browns first touchdown.

Coley was asked what helped him to make an impression on the coaching staff in Cleveland, and he pointed to one of his teammates. He said Jamie Meder was a big inspiration for him when he made the team as an undrafted rookie free agent. Meder, who like himself, took the hard route to the NFL as an undrafted free agent from Ashland University.
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“Jamie Meder has been big for me,” Coley said. “He has been helping me throughout a lot, and Shelton, also. Every time I get to pick his brain on something small or what he does well, I ask him a lot. The whole defensive line has really been good to me, and Clyde (Simmons), of course.

Meder and Larry Ogunjobi have been working with the first team while Coley has been sidelined. Caleb Brantley has also been in the rotation.

The Browns on Friday tendered restricted free agent Rashard Higgins and exclusive rights free agents defensive tackle Trevon Coley and defensive back Jermaine Whitehead.

Higgins, a fifth-round selection in the 2016 NFL Draft, blossomed in his third season with the Browns, catching 39 passes for 572 yards and four touchdowns. For his career, Higgins has 72 receptions, 961 yards and six touchdowns.

Coley has started 29 games over the past two seasons in Cleveland, compiling 80 tackles, 2.5 sacks and a safety.

Whitehead, whom the Browns claimed via waivers from the Packers midway through last season, played exclusively on special teams in his seven games with Cleveland.

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Higgins was a fifth round pick out of Colorado State in the 2016 NFL Draft. Over the course of his first two seasons, he missed one game. He recorded 33 receptions for 389 yards and two touchdowns. ‘Hollywood’ surpassed those numbers this season alone. Higgins recorded 39 receptions for 572 yards and four touchdowns.

Higgins was fifth on the team in receptions this season. He did miss three games this season due to injury.

The announcement essentially confirms that the team will not retain restricted free agent defensive back Briean Boddy-Calhoun.

Boddy-Calhoun is an undrafted free agent out of Minnesota entering his fourth season. In his rookie season, he recorded 43 tackles, 11 pass deflections, a sack, three interceptions and a touchdown. In his second season, he recorded 39 tackles and six pass deflections. His third season was the most interesting. The Browns hired General Manager John Dorsey in December. Boddy-Calhoun was almost immediately moved to a backup free safety role. It suggested that the executive did not value the player in the same manner as his predecessors.

Since joining the Browns, the Ohio native has undergone anger and alcohol abuse management. Hunt has also been advising students to avoid the same mistakes that he has made in life.

“I have been going to schools talking to high school kids. Just telling them that you guys have to make smart decisions. I have done make mistakes. Everybody makes mistakes, and you just have to make the best decision for you.”

The former third round choice explained his message to the students.

“Just to go out there and let them know how important it is and just tell them because I really didn’t have anybody come talk to me when I was in high school or somebody to look up to, explain that nobody is perfect and that you have to learn from your mistakes and don’t make the same mistakes twice.”

Hunt has been suspended for the first eight games of the season by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

Seth DeValve Jersey

The Cleveland Browns have a lot of exciting pieces on the offensive side of the ball. Running back Nick Chubb and wide receiver Jarvis Landry are returning for their second seasons in Cleveland. David Njoku arrived as a legitimate receiving tight end at the end of 2018. Then there are the new additions. Cleveland added superstars Kareem Hunt and Odell Beckham in the offseason. Hunt has yet to serve an eight game suspension, but Chubb is capable of carrying the load until he gets back. Sophomore quarterback Baker Mayfield has weapons galore at his disposal. However, one name often flies under the radar in Browns talk: tight end Seth DeValve. A potential Seth DeValve breakout may be vital to one of the best and most exciting offenses Cleveland has ever boasted.

DeValve enters his fourth NFL season with a fair amount of ups and downs. He enjoyed a mini breakout in 2017, when he caught 33 passes for 395 yards. Last year, he played just 98 snaps, fourth among Browns tight ends. He has flashed exceptional athleticism and route running talent, but has played limited snaps due to underwhelming blocking ability. However, the Browns like to employ two tight end sets. They did so on 18% of plays in 2018 after they fired Hue Jackson, slightly above the league average of 16%. They also ran sets with three tight ends on an impressive 14% of plays. League average sits at 3% there.

Head coach and offensive play caller Freddie Kitchens is excellent at scheming his second tight end open. Darren Fells is essentially a sixth offensive lineman and he caught three touchdowns last year, including the first of Mayfield’s career. DeValve is a far superior receiver to Fells, and Fells is now a free agent. That means that there are 420 snaps to be replaced in the Browns offense, and a majority of those should go to DeValve and the newly signed Demetrius Harris. If he steps up and improves his blocking, the opportunity to thrive is staring him in the face.

Defenses are going to have a lot of players to scheme for against Cleveland in 2019. Beckham Jr. is a top five NFL receiver who commands lots of double teams and attention. Jarvis Landry also deserves attention, especially out of the slot, where he’ll play more in 2019 with the addition of Beckham. Once Hunt is back from suspension the Browns will have two running backs with compatible skill sets. Even Njoku is a young, athletic tight end that defenses will want to key on to. Mayfield wants to spread the ball around. Thanks to Kitchens’ schemes and the gravity of DeValve’s teammates, he should have all kinds of opportunity to showcase his route running ability and make a big offensive impact.

A lot of people note that there are only two Sashi Brown picks left on Cleveland’s roster; DeValve and Njoku. Though there is a slight chance DeValve gets cut, he’s a good young player being paid only $815K in 2019. The Browns would be wise to hold onto him for another season and let him capitalize on an opportunity to break out.

On Monday, Browns tight end Seth DeValve became the first white NFL player to kneel during the national anthem. His wife, Erica Harris DeValve, didn’t know he was going to kneel until she saw it for herself at the game.

Erica is black, and as Seth described during the postgame interviews, he said that he was going to “be raising children that don’t look like (him).” It was a heartfelt statement and action that, according to Michael Bennett, would help amplify the conversation about social injustice.

On Thursday, Erica wrote an article for theroot.com and issued her own powerful response to her husband’s activism.

On Monday night, Cleveland Browns tight end Seth DeValve became the first white NFL player to protest during the national anthem when he kneeled before the team’s preseason game against the New York Giants.

Nearly a dozen players on the Browns knelt during the anthem and others on the team put their arms around their teammate in a sign of solidarity. It is the largest protest by a single team seen this season.

DeValve’s kneel comes just one week after Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett called for white players to participate in the national anthem protest. Eagles defensive end Chris Long has been one of the most outspoken players in regards to politics and he joined in the anthem protests by putting his arm around Malcolm Jenkins, who had his first raised in air.

DeValve explained his decision to protest with reporters after the game:

“It saddens me that in 2017, we have to do something like that. I personally would like to say that I love this country. I love our national anthem. I’m very grateful to the men and women who have given their lives and give a lot every day to protect this country and to serve this country. I want to honor them as much as I can. The United States is the greatest country in the world. It is because it provides opportunities to its citizen that no other country does. The issue is that it doesn’t provide equal opportunity to everybody and I wanted to support my African-American teammates today who wanted to take a knee. We wanted to draw attention to the fact that there are things in this country that still need to change. I, myself, will be raising children that don’t look like me and I want to do my part as well to do everything I can to raise them in a better environment than we have right now. I wanted to take the opportunity with my teammates during the anthem to pray for our country and also draw attention to the fact that we have work to do. That’s why I did what I did.”

The anthem protests started last season and were made prominent by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. The protests have started back up in the aftermath of a white supremacist rally that turned violent in Charlottesville, Va., earlier this month.

On Monday night, I walked into FirstEnergy Stadium having absolutely no clue what was going to happen during the national anthem. When it began, I saw a group of Browns players kneeling and was proud. A few moments later, I noticed that No. 87—my husband, Seth—was among them, and I was even prouder.

That moment reconfirmed a few things that I knew: that the many in-depth conversations about race that Seth and I had—that every interracial couple must have had—resonated and took root with him; that he knew this was bigger than just one-on-one chatting with me over dinner or coffee; and that he gets it, beyond a simple desire to be protective of me as his wife.

While I understand (and am deeply proud) that Seth is the first white NFL player to kneel during a demonstration like this (on Sept. 4, 2016, Megan Rapinoe, a U.S. women’s soccer player, was the first white professional athlete to do so), I would like to push back against some of the attention he’s been getting that portrays him as some sort of white savior to a movement that was started and has been carried on by black football players for about a year now.

I am grateful for the widespread support and praise that Seth is getting for his actions, but I would like to offer a humble reminder that a man—a black man—literally lost his job for taking a knee, week after week, on his own. Colin Kaepernick bravely took a step and began a movement throughout the NFL, and he suffered a ridiculous amount of hate and threats and ultimately lost his life’s work in the sport he loves.

We should not see Seth’s participation as legitimizing this movement. Rather, he chose to be an ally of his black teammates. To center the focus of Monday’s demonstration solely on Seth is to distract from what our real focus should be: listening to the experiences and the voices of the black people who are using their platforms to continue to bring the issue of racism in the U.S. to the forefront. Seth, as a white individual, never has and never will truly have to feel the weight and burden of racial discrimination and racial oppression. No white person does or will. But all white people should care and take a stand against its prevalence in this country.

What I hope to see from this is a shift in the conversation to Seth’s black teammates, who realistically have to carry that burden all the time. I am discouraged by this idea that acknowledging and fighting against racism is a distraction that must be stored away in order to be a good football player. I wholeheartedly reject that narrative.

Black players in the NFL cannot just turn their concern on and off in order to be able to focus more on football. White players shouldn’t, either. Racism is a day-to-day reality, and I hope that, instead of holding Seth up on a pedestal, the response will be to do what he did: listen to the voices of the black people in your life, and choose to support them as they seek to make their voices heard.

To the people who are looking at pictures of us and saying, “Oh, well, that makes sense,” I offer a dramatic eye roll. People on Twitter have insinuated that it’s simply my appearance that inspired Seth to kneel with his teammates, or that I must’ve threatened Seth with leaving him or refusing to have sex with him if he didn’t join the demonstration. To even joke in this way is gross. Seth didn’t do what he did simply to obtain a gold star from his wife. His actions on Monday night were not the equivalent of him bringing home a bouquet of flowers after I’ve had a rough day.

In his interview after Monday night’s game, Seth said, “I myself will be raising children that don’t look like me, and I want to do my part as well to do everything I can to raise them in a better environment than we have right now.” I don’t think either of us foresaw that this choice to share about his personal life would become the go-to narrative to explain Seth’s actions in their entirety.

Seth understands how racism systematically oppresses people across this entire nation. He understands that to be complacent about it is not just unacceptable as a “black wife’s” husband; Seth supported his teammates because it was the right thing to do, it was the godly thing to do and it was the responsible thing to do. If I were white, he should have done the same, and I am confident that he would have.

In the last few days, we have seen a lot of the same comments that have been expressed since Kaepernick began kneeling during the national anthem: people imploring players to stand up because it is disrespectful to the flag, to the country, and to active military and veterans. But what Kaepernick did (and what various NFL players are continuing this season) is something we should see as real patriotism. They are engaging critically with the national anthem and this country’s articulated ideals; they are consciously observing the reality of our country’s current state; and they are using their platforms to publicly hold the country in which they live accountable to the ideals it is supposed to be upholding.

To be complacent that the U.S. strives to be “the land of the free” while so many of its citizens of color are being oppressed for their race is unpatriotic and irresponsible. I applaud those who realize that and do something about it rather than ignore it.

JC Tretter Jersey

CLEVELAND, Ohio — This isn’t about one player, but a franchise decision about position priority. After going 1-15 in 2016, the Browns paid up to bolster the middle of the offensive line. That didn’t change the team’s immediate future during the 0-16 season in 2017, but last year, as the offense took off under Baker Mayfield, you saw what strength in the middle of the line could do. That’s why this choice ranks No. 13 on our list of moves that transformed the Browns.

In March of 2017, the Browns splurged to secure the interior of their offensive line, signing guard Kevin Zeitler and center JC Tretter as free agents and extending guard Joel Bitonio. Zeitler signed a five-year, $60 million deal; Tretter signed for three years and $16.75 million; and Bitonio’s extension was for six years and $51.16 million.

Playing together in 2017 and 2018, the three of them earned a combined $57.6 million for those two seasons. After losing center Alex Mack and right tackle Mitchell Schwartz in free agency a year earlier, the Browns, with money to spend, targeted the offensive line in free agency. Zeitler, one of the best guards in the NFL in Cincinnati for five seasons, was a major investment. Tretter, coming off an injury in Green Bay, was more of a value choice. And Bitonio, a second-round pick of the Browns in 2014, was viewed as a franchise building block.

Each of them started all 32 games in the last two seasons. While the retirement of left tackle Joe Thomas created offensive line uncertainty on the edge before 2018, the middle of the line was locked in. According to Pro Football Focus, Bitonio and Zeitler were the two best pass-blocking guards in the league in 2018, and Tretter ranked third among centers.

J.C. Tretter is an all-around athlete. He was a quarterback and basketball player in high school and was recruited to Cornell as a tight end.

After playing the position for his first two seasons, he moved to tackle and the offense improved immensely. He shows great football smarts and made a very quick and smooth transition to his new role.

Tretter is being recruited mainly as a guard due to his lack of competition in college and arms that are considered a bit on the short side for an offensive lineman. However, he could certainly find his niche as an interior lineman in the NFL.

Due to his background as an all-around athlete and tight end, he possesses a very athletic build and is very light on his feet. Even after bulking up for the tackle position, he maintained his balance, quickness and lateral mobility.

His high football I.Q. allows him to quickly recognize different defensive schemes and blitzes. He is then able to react quickly and throw multiple blocks in these situations. This is quite remarkable considering his lack of experience at the position.

He has only two years experience as an offensive lineman and what experience he did gain was against less-than-elite competition. This will be heavily considered by NFL scouts.

Despite his good size and frame, Tretter still needs to fill out more to play on an NFL offensive line. Until he does, he probably won’t see much action.

His biggest weakness were he play offensive tackle is his arm length. At 32.5″, their length is below average for an offensive tackle and would give Tretter problems with quicker pass-rushers at the next level. This will be the main reason for his potential move to guard in the NFL.

Tools

Tretter stands at 6’4″ and weighs in at 307 pounds. He has a very athletic frame and has a great amount of potential to bulk up into the size of a typical offensive lineman at the NFL level.

His short arms will not allow him to continue to play on the outside of an NFL offensive line, so Tretter will be much better suited as a guard moving forward.

Tretter has no known character issues. He is a very serious football player and a student of the game. He shows attention to detail and constantly wants to improve. These are all things that an NFL scout would love to see being that Tretter will be considered a developmental project.

Like many college prospects these days, Tretter worked mainly in a shotgun or pistol formation during his years with Cornell. He did not take many snaps with the quarterback under center.

This will add yet another level to Tretter’s development before he can become a contributor at the next level.

Tretter is very quick off the snap and can get himself into position well before contact is made with a pass-rusher. He shows a nice ability to get his hands into the chest of a defender and continue to stay on his block throughout the duration of a play.

He adeptly recognizes blitz packages and is able to detect early what the defense is trying to do. He adjusts nicely and allows himself to get into position to pick up the pass rush and make multiple blocks.

He did alright in pass protection on the outside in college but will struggle at the NFL level—hence his expected move to the guard position.

Run-Blocking

Tretter has a really nice lateral move and can get out in front of a quicker running back and sustain blocks into the second level.

He also plays with a bit of a mean streak. When Tretter notices that a defender has been knocked off-balance, he will quickly drive them to the ground.

Because of Tretter’s athletic ability, he is able to use his lateral agility to get outside in a hurry when blocking either on a sweep or screen.

He is able to get upfield quickly and continue blocking at the second level. He does show good recognition on the move and engages defenders at an appropriate angle.

Tretter does use his arms well in protection and is able to extend them into a defender’s chest to keep him at bay throughout the duration of a play.

However, he does not have the upper-body strength or leverage to sustain a block on a larger NFL defensive tackle. He will need to bulk up and work on evening out his pad level to become more of an effective interior lineman.

Tretter will not see action during his rookie season. He is a project player and will likely see time on a practice squad while being developed.

He does possess great upside and has only begun to scratch the surface of his potential. With the right coaching, Tretter could be a very solid starting member of an NFL offensive line within the next couple of years.

T. J. Carrie Jersey

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Apparently, John Dorsey wasn’t impressed with the Browns’ secondary in 2017.

He continued to overhaul the defensive backfield on Wednesday, signing former Ohio University product T.J. Carrie, a free agent cornerback from the Raiders, a league source told cleveland.com.

Carrie (6-0, 206) was drafted by the Raiders in the seventh round of the 2014 draft. ESPN’s Adam Caplan reported it’s a four-year deal worth $31 million, including $15.5 million in total guarantees.

Dorsey also traded for Packers cornerback Damarious Randall on Friday, and he’s already penciled in as the starting free safety. Wednesday morning, he agreed to terms with former Chiefs cornerback Terrance Mitchell.

Carrie started 15 games for the Raiders in 2017, making 70 tackles.

Carrie has an inspirational story that will have Browns fans rooting for him.

At the age of 15, Carrie was diagnosed with a birth defect known as a coronory artery anomaly and was faced with a dilemma: undergo open heart surgery or avoid physical activity for life.

He bravely chose the former and underwent the surgery on Valentine’s Day in 2006 at Oakland Children’s hospital. Carrie went on to successful career at OU and captured the attention of the Raiders.

Last season, he played 1,719 snaps, more than all of the other Raiders cornerbacks combined, according to Raiders’ beatwriter Michael Gehlken.

Carrie will challenge for a starting job in Cleveland.

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Browns cornerback T.J. Carrie points to the 9-inch long scar running down the middle of his chest and the tiny horizontal one just below it.

“There was a time when I was embarrassed by this scar,’’ Carrie told cleveland.com. “Now, I embrace it. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without this scar.’’

Underneath the scar is a heart filled with gratitude for every beat, every breath he takes and every time he steps on the football field for the Cleveland Browns.

“I know what it feels like to look up and know that your dreams can be taken away,’’ said the 28-year-old Carrie.

Matters of the heart

As a 15-year-old growing up in Antioch, Calif., Carrie wanted to follow in the footsteps of his three older brothers, who all played college football and one who even played semi-pro. He shared not only their gridiron dreams, but a greater one — to play in the NFL.

But during football conditioning before his freshman year in high school and while running track, he got lightheaded. One day, during a preseason workout, Carrie passed out cold.

“It made me question if I could ever play football,’’ he said.

Carrie, who transferred to prep football powerhouse De La Salle that year, quit the team as a freshman to get the problem diagnosed. After a series of EKGs and stress tests, and a heart monitor that he wore to school, doctors determined that he had a “one in a million” birth defect in which his right coronary artery was misaligned between his lungs.

Any physical exertion and the artery was clamped off.

“The doctor gave me two options,’’ said Carrie. “One, either don’t play sports … or two, we could go through the surgery to reposition the artery.”

There was one small problem with option two, however. “The likelihood of still being able to play collegiate sports or high school sports was really slim to none,” he said.

A family with strong faith, the Carries prayed and weighed the pros and cons. Carrie’s five siblings — four brothers and a sister — and his parents were all part of the process.

“It was very scary,’’ said Carrie. “At the time, only 12 of these procedures had been done.’’

Carrie was filled with questions.

“I wondered, ‘is everything going to go okay?’” he said. “‘What’s going to happen afterwards, not only with sports but with school and basic kid life experiences? Would I be able to race my friends or participate in all of the other activities that go along with being a teenager? Those were questions we didn’t have answers for. We didn’t really have anyone to turn to but the Lord and ourselves as a family.’’

Ultimately, the Carries consented to the procedure with Dr. Frank Hanley at Oakland Children’s Hospital. The surgery was eventually scheduled for Feb. 14 — Valentine’s Day.

“It was just a beautiful experience of being able to have open-heart surgery on heart day,” said Carrie, who remembers being petrified heading into surgery and just as scared when he awoke.

“I had these big bandages on my chest and this tube in my stomach,’’ he said, pointing the small horizontal scar underneath the long one. “It brought me back to being a kid and watching movies with people in the hospital and tubes all over the place. Here I am a young teen waking up with all of these tubes everywhere and you could actually see the fluid draining from my stomach.’’

Carrie spent two months in the hospital, more than that out of school.

“I remember not being able to stand up straight because of the staples in my chest,” he said. “For a while I walked with a humpback because I was scared my chest would pop open.’’

Carrie woke up every day in great pain. “I had to clean the bandages off my chest because I’d had lot of the leftover oozing and pus.’’

Ultimately, his scar became very puffy, which made him insecure.

“For a while, I didn’t take my shirt off because I didn’t want people to see it,’’ he said. “You get questions.’’

He was also self-conscious about his protruding sternum.

“It never really went down and it’s still out to this day,’’ he said. “Everyone else’s lays down flat so that gave me great discomfort with the way I looked. It was just something I had to deal with as a teenager.’’

Carrie also had to fend off the gnawing doubts about whether he’d be able to play football.

“My junior year was probably one of the hardest years of my life because not only was I trying to prepare myself to play football in my senior year, but I was still trying to make up the all of the classes that I missed. I had to take junior college classes at night and it was a lot of added pressure.’’

Carrie remembers standing on the sidelines during practices the spring and summer before his senior year, wondering if he could really make it happen. When it was finally time for him to practice, there was a lot of “‘you can’t do this, you can’t do that. I don’t think you should do that.’ There was an extra layer of protective guidance from everyone around me.’’

During practice, Carrie wore extra padding and a red ‘caution’ jersey. He was only permitted contact during games.

“De La Salle went to extreme lengths to keep me safe, and it took a village of people to get me back on the field,’’ he said.

The village included his three older brothers, Reynard, Eric and Domonick. After practice, he’d travel 45 minutes to train with Reynard, who played at Portland State and later for the San Jose Sabre Cats in the Arena League. A personal trainer, Reynard pushed him hard, but not too hard.

“Reynard had to find the balance between preparing me for the season and not letting me overdo it,’’ he said. “We’d do extra drills and extra activity and sometimes he thought I was ready to quit, but I always pushed through it.’’

Carrie had grown up working out in the garage with his brothers. His younger brother, Rajheem, is ‘by far the best athlete of all of us,’ but is pursuing a music career at the University of Akron.

“I was the ball boy and water boy for my older brothers and I lived for those moments,’’ Carrie said. “They were my mentors and role models. They’re what inspired my dream of playing in the NFL.’’

There were plenty of discouraging times.

“De La Salle is known for their very vigorous conditioning program and sometimes it was too much of a strain,’’ Carrie said. “It took me a lot longer to get in shape than the other guys. My teammates always pushed me to move forward and work harder.’’

Grinding through the fear, Carrie finally made it on the field as a senior, playing running back and defensive back. He excelled on defense, totaling 90 tackles, two forced fumbles, two interceptions and 10 pass breakups. De La Salle won a state championship, and he was voted first-team all-conference. He made the honor roll, too.

“It was one of the best years of my life, being able to get out there and play my first and only year of high school football,” he said. “We had so much fun and brotherhood at De La Salle and so many memories of winning football games, pre-game meals at friends’ houses, and spending the night at friends’ houses after games.’’

Carrie and other players would often gather at a teammate’s house to play games and burn their highlights onto CDs to send out to colleges. Carrie sent out at least 30, but never head back from anyone. He enlisted the help of his brothers, who contacted their college coaches. His second-oldest brother, Eric, reached out to his New Mexico State defensive coordinator Ross Els, who was then linebackers coach at Ohio University, and they brought Carrie in for a visit.

“I remember wearing an all-black pinstripe suit that my parents bought me, because my mom always told me, the first impression always leaves the best impression,’’ he said. “I remember the coaches were shocked. To this day, they always talk about the suit I wore, and how impressed they were.’’

The California kid remembered traveling 3,000 miles from home and then driving through snow and hail from the airport to OU.

“I was like, ‘man where are we going?’” he recalled. “But when I got there, it was a pure college town and I loved everything about it.”

Still, Carrie hadn’t made up all of his missed work at De La Salle.

“I was behind the eight-ball,’’ he said. “Signing day came and went and I still hadn’t made up all of my classes. OU said ‘we’re going to wait for you. You’re a great kid, we want you here.’’’

Carrie finished his night classes, took the SAT and accepted OU’s scholarship.

“I went off to college and they treated me like I was one of the best people they ever had,’’ he said.

His parents, Gloria and Reynard, moved to Ohio to watch him play for the Bobcats and still live here. Carrie suffered a shoulder injury that cost him his junior season, but came back as a senior in 2013 and started 11 games. He tied a career-high with four interceptions, returning two for TDs. He made the All-MAC first-team as punt returner, and caught the eye of the Raiders, who drafted him in the seventh round of the 2014 draft, 219th overall.

After four seasons with the Raiders, the Browns signed Carrie as a free agent and he’s been a major contributor in the overhauled defensive backfield, starting six of his 14 games. Last week, he picked off Broncos quarterback Case Keenum to set up the game-winning touchdown in the Browns’ 17-16 victory. It was his first interception of the season.

Two days later, Carrie was at University Hospitals’ Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital Cardiology Unit, delivering “Shadow Buddies” to young heart patients on behalf of his T.J. Carrie Foundation.

“It’s a bear that has a scar down its chest and that bear has my jersey and shorts on and my logo of my foundation,’’ said Carrie. “Within that bear you also get a motivational card. It shows the kids that I have been through this too and there’s someone out there that has a scar just like you. Hopefully this bear is a remembrance that you’re not the only one with this issue and don’t feel bad about yourself.’’

During his frequent visits, he talks to kids and parents about what to expect.

“So often, kids lose some of their identity because they might not be able to accomplish their dreams. I always tell kids to still dream big. They don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, but (they need to) believe there’s someone out there who’s gone through it too and they’ve come through on the other side.’’

These days, he rips open his shirt for young patients with so much gusto, you almost expect to see an ‘S’ on his chest. Instead, it’s the scar of which he’s now proud.

“I show it off,’’ he said. “I embrace it. I show it to the kids in the hospital to show them that I have one just like theirs and it’s not going anywhere and just to have fun with it.’’

He warns them it won’t be easy. He still has metal sutures in his sternum that he can see on X-rays. But he wouldn’t change a thing.

“Some things that you go through in life, you’re meant to go through them to prepare you for life down the road,’’ he said. “But when you get to the end of the road, you realize, ‘if I hadn’t gone through that, I wouldn’t be prepared for this.’”

Someday, Carrie knows that he’ll share his story with his 10-month son, Elijah. For now, he holds him tight over the scar on his chest, with the grateful heart inside.

Damarious Randall Jersey

CLEVELAND — Cleveland Browns defensive back Damarious Randall has ingratiated himself into the Dawg Pound with his solid play on the field, but also, by embracing the support of the fans and for his fun-loving mindset.

On Friday, Randall put the latter on full display by tweeting several pictures of himself posing with metal statues resembling English Bulldogs.

“Definitely belong in the Dawg Pound…,” Randall tweeted.

Fellow Browns defensive back Denzel Ward responded, “Facts.”

Randall’s tweet was liked more than 2,000 times and retweeted by 171 Twitter users in just three hours.

According to his Instagram account, Randall currently is on vacation in London, England after a solid first year in Cleveland.

The Browns acquired Randall in a trade with the Green Bay Packers last offseason. In exchange for Randall, the Browns sent quarterback DeShone Kizer to Green Bay. Also, the teams swapped picks in the fourth and fifth rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft.

In 15 games for the Browns in 2018, Randall set career highs with 85 total tackles, 72 solo stops and 13 assists, to go along with nine passes defended and matched his previous single-season best with four interceptions.

A first-round pick of the Packers, No. 30 overall, in the 2015 NFL Draft, Randall has registered 229 total tackles, 198 solo stops, 31 assists, 41 passes defended and 14 interceptions, two of which he returned for touchdowns during his four-year career.

Randall got plenty of support from his play on the field, but it was something he did after an interception in a 35-20 win over the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati last November that got him further in good standing with fans.

Following his dismissal from the Browns, coach Hue Jackson became a special assistant for the Bengals, and when the two teams met over Thanksgiving Weekend, Randall wanted to greet the former Cleveland leader.

After corralling an interception of Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton with 9:09 remaining in the second quarter, Randall handed the ball to and greeted Jackson when he ran out of bounds on the Cincinnati sideline.

Former Green Bay Packers cornerback and current Cleveland Browns free safety Damarious Randall called out Green Bay’s front office in the wake of head coach Mike McCarthy’s firing while also suggesting that perhaps Rodgers has taken a step back.

“They traded away all their good players and they expect Aaron Rodgers to just be magical,” Randall said, per Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. “The magic hasn’t been so magical lately. But other than that, I don’t know.”

Randall, Green Bay’s first-round pick in 2015, was also surprised to see McCarthy get fired.

“Mike McCarthy is a great, great coach,” said Randall, who was traded in March to Cleveland for DeShone Kizer. “I’ve got nothing but the utmost respect for him. I just wish him the best. I don’t know why they fired him. He’s definitely a good, good guy, and he’s a great coach.”

The Packers have struggled immensely in 2018 with a 4-7-1 record that all but assures they’ll miss the postseason for the second straight year after reaching the playoffs eight straight times from 2009-16. There’s little question that Rodgers has an inferior supporting cast and didn’t have the coaching under McCarthy that other quarterbacks like Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Patrick Mahomes and Jared Goff have had.

It’s harder to argue that Rodgers isn’t still playing elite football. The 35-year-old battled through a knee injury this season but has nonetheless thrown for 3,504 yards, 21 touchdowns and just one interception. He is completing just 61.8 percent of his passes, which rests below his career average (64.8 percent), though Pro Football Focus has given Rodgers a 90.5 grade for the season, fourth among quarterbacks.

Green Bay’s scheme hasn’t done him many favors, however. The Packers are 21st in run offense (105.7 YPG) and 25th in run defense (127.8 YPG), so the lack of magic in Green Bay is perhaps spread out evenly across the roster.

CLEVELAND, Ohio — The Browns moved to 2-2-1 by beating Baltimore in the fifth game last season, and first-year Browns safety Damarious Randall was already letting opponents know where things stood.

“I’ve just got to let him know I’m the best free safety in the league and I’m going to be going sideline to sideline the entire game,” Randall then said of what he told a Ravens receiver that Sunday.

Then he said this — again, after week five in the 2018 season.

“Honestly, I feel like if we can keep this team together for a couple years, we will bring a Super Bowl to this town. You can mark my words on that. If we can keep most of these core guys and most of this together, we will win a Super Bowl.”

This guy knew it. So getting Randall to Cleveland? That’s high on our list of moves that transformed the Browns, at No. 6.

The move: Acquire Damarious Randall from Green Bay for quarterback DeShone Kizer and a minor swap of fourth- and fifth-round picks in 2018. The Browns gave up Nos. 101 and 138 and got back Nos. 114 and 150.

The context: Kizer was done. The one positive thing from 2017 was that the Browns played Kizer as a rookie and made a definitive decision on him — he wasn’t their guy. They were going to draft a quarterback at No. 1, so keeping him around didn’t make sense if they could get something for him.

And boy, did they get something. After starting Derrick Kindred and Jabrill Peppers together at safety in 2017, the Browns wanted to improve. General manager John Dorsey targeted a Packer who had been playing out of position at cornerback in Green Bay. And Randall became a Brown on March 9, 2018.

The Browns looked it during Sunday’s win at Paul Brown Stadium, their first road win in more than three years. Baker Mayfield threw for 258 yards and four touchdowns, extending plays when the initial design didn’t yield the right option (he also didn’t turn the ball over and took zero sacks); Nick Chubb accrued 128 yards of offense and two touchdowns on 31 touches, including a seemingly impossible touchdown grab that he pinned against Brandon Wilson’s helmet and pulled into his chest as he hit the ground; and the defense didn’t allow a touchdown until 52 seconds before halftime.

The Browns didn’t just win on the road or for the second time in a row. They did so in convincing fashion. They never lost the lead and the Bengals never got closer than 7-0.

“I just want to credit my team for playing lights out,” Randall said. “Obviously, they saw what I said. The whole entire world saw it.”

Jarvis Landry Jersey

Given their inability to win football games for the better part of two decades, the Cleveland Browns are hardly a coveted landing spot for most NFL players.

That’s why when Jarvis Landry was traded from the Miami Dolphins to Cleveland earlier this offseason, he felt as though Dolphins head coach Adam Gase made the move to punish him.

“I just felt like, for some reason, Adam sent me here to die,” Landry said in an ESPN profile by Elizabeth Merrill.

According to Landry, Gase would try to get the most out of his players by jokingly threatening to trade them to Cleveland if they didn’t get their act together, in reference to the New England Patriots trading Pro Bowl linebacker Jamie Collins to the Browns during the 2016 season.

Rather than head to his new team with a negative attitude, Landry has embraced the opportunity. In fact, he chose the Browns.

Landry revealed the finalists for his services were Cleveland and the Baltimore Ravens, and he was intrigued by working with Browns offensive coordinator Todd Haley and was concerned he would receive fewer opportunities in the passing game in Baltimore due to the Ravens’ focus on the ground game.

“Let’s do Cleveland,” Landry recalled telling his agent, Damarius Bilbo.

Cleveland sent a pair of draft picks in exchange for the three-time Pro Bowler in March. He wasted little time committing to his new team, signing a five-year, $75.5 million extension a month after the trade.

Miami initially placed the franchise tag on the fifth-year receiver early in the offseason, and he quickly signed the tender, guaranteeing him approximately $16 million in 2018. When it became clear the two sides would not reach a long-term deal, the wideout was given permission to seek a trade.

Landry acknowledged that he had a strained relationship with Gase, noting that he felt there was a lack of trust between the coach and player. He did, however, say that he is “grateful” the Dolphins drafted and supported him.

The Miami chapter of his career is behind him, and he is now all-in on Cleveland. Landry’s brother Gerard, who is also his manager, has even looked into trying to get a banner of the receiver put up on the same downtown building the iconic LeBron James sign hung for years.

Cleveland is just 1-31 over the past two seasons, but Landry believes he can help turn things around in The Land.

“I’ve been working this offseason to put myself in place to earn the respect of all the Clevelanders,” Landry said. “And to have the opportunity to be recognized as another great player that has touched the city of Cleveland.”

Miami Dolphins wide receiver Jarvis Landry caught five passes for 62 yards as the Dolphins picked apart the Denver Broncos to the tune of a 35-9 victory Sunday.

The performance gave him 80 receptions for the year, making Landry the first NFL player to record at least 80 grabs in each of his first four seasons, per the league’s official site.

Landry—a late second-round pick in 2014—has surpassed 90 receptions and 1,100 receiving yards each of the past two seasons. Although he has just 699 yards in 12 games, putting him at risk of falling short of 1,000 yards on the season, Landry has caught a career-high six touchdown passes this term.

While he may not catch as much hype as former LSU teammate Odell Beckham Jr., Landry has been a model of consistency since entering the league, and the 2017 season has been no exception.

Apart from the first game of his career, in which Landry was held to zero receptions, he has logged at least three receptions in all but one game, a 2015 tilt against the Baltimore Ravens wherein he caught two passes. He has yet to finish a game with less than five receptions this season.

In addition to being a steady producer on offense, Landry has been consistent with his availability. Heading into Week 14, the fourth-year wideout has not missed a game for the Dolphins. Landry will next take the field Sunday, when the Dolphins host the New England Patriots in an AFC East matchup.

“This is my guy,” Beckham Jr. said of Landry. “This is everything I ever dreamed of and more. I am just really excited about the opportunity. I can’t lie. I am looking at it, I feel it and I think this is the biggest blessing, especially being able to be here for him.

We used to call each other every, single day, and I know this life gets hard. We go through our ups and downs, and I felt like I couldn’t be there for him all the time, even if it was just by phone call. Now, I can really be there for him. I can be back in his life, and that is something I prayed for. Be careful what you wish for.”

Miles was impressed by how Landry and Beckham Jr. would compete in practice, and even afterward, where they perfected the art of making one-handed catches, which has become a staple in their games.

“This reason this all happened is because of him,” Beckham Jr. said. “We would sneak into the facility at midnight and shoot JUGS until 2 a.m. We would be like, ‘Let’s go outside and talk,’ and we would go throw right outside our room, throwing the football back and forth and playing 20 or 21.

“Him throwing the ball as hard as he can at me and you just have to catch it. The worst throws possible, you have to catch it. All the one-handed catches came from him. He started it.”

Landry and Beckham Jr. will be coached with the Browns by wide receivers coach Adam Henry, same man who mentored them at LSU.

“Obviously, I think the thing that makes Adam so special — we had are times together at LSU — but he was a part of the recruiting process for me in high school and things like that, so he knows a lot about our lives inside and out,” Landry recalled.

“I would say there are things I guess you can call ‘trigger points’ that makes you reflect on the time, that motivates us to go harder and do more. He knows all of it. Pretty much, he has the leash on the dogs and just let them go.”

And that is music to the ears of quarterback Baker Mayfield, who is very much looking forward to throwing passes to both Landry and Beckham Jr. during the 2019 season.

“Throwing to him and just running routes on air and realizing all of the potential and the talent he has, it is unique,” Mayfield said. “Not many are able to do it. Then you have to LSU Tigers next to each other, and that is a dangerous duo. It is going to be a lot of fun, but it is something you dream about.”

E.J. Gaines Jersey

The Buffalo Bills have seemingly now all but eliminated the need for another cornerback ahead of the 2019 season on Monday.

A familiar face in EJ Gaines has joined the Bills on a one-year deal, the team has since confirmed following numerous reports.

Does he sound familiar? He should.

With that, here’s seven things to remember & know about the new Bills cornerback:
Triumphant return

Here’s why you may remember Gaines: He was once on the Bills. The year was 2017, so he’s still fresh in the memory banks. That year, Gaines suited up in the red, white and blue in western New York. His season was productive when he was on the field, too.

In 11 games played, Gaines had 59 total tackles with nine passes defended, three forced fumbles and one interception in his lone season with the Bills. Plus, the team was 8-3 overall in games he appeared in.

In addition, Gaines graded as the NFL’s 13th best cornerback in the NFL that season via the football analytics website Pro Football Focus with an overall grade of 86.6. The year prior in 2016, he graded at 37.0 overall.

He also was part of the Bills’ roster which cracked a 17-season playoff drought. So there’s that, too.

The Bills are bringing back the free agent cornerback on a one-year, $3.6 million deal, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Monday. The team later announced the signing.

Gaines played last season for Cleveland, seeing action in six games with two starts before ending the year on injured reserve.

In 2017, following a couple seasons with the Rams to start his NFL career, Gaines played in 11 games for the Bills, all of them starts.

It’s the continuation of a busy offseason thus far for the Bills, who have signed center Mitch Morse, receivers Cole Beasley and John Brown and linebacker Maurice Alexander, among others.

Here are other transactions we’re monitoring on Monday:

  1. The New York Jets announced the re-signing of outside linebacker Brandon Copeland on Monday. Terms were not disclosed.

The re-signing comes on the heels of Copeland turning in a career-best campaign in his first year with the Jets as he he started 10 games and tallied five sacks, 14 quarterback hits and 35 tackles. All of the aforementioned numbers were career-highs for Copeland, who began his career with two seasons with the Detroit Lions.

  1. The Cincinnati Bengals announced the re-signing of cornerback Darqueze Dennard to a one-year contract on Monday. Rapoport reported the deal is worth $5 million as Dennard preferred a one-season deal over a multi-year contract with a chance at the market next year. A first-round pick by the Bengals in 2014, Dennard started a career-high nine games last season and tallied 68 tackles and six passes defended.

March 25 (UPI) — For the second time in his NFL career, E.J. Gaines is set to line up at cornerback for the Buffalo Bills.

The 27-year-old is heading back to the Bills for a second stint the team announced, returning to the team for which he played in 2017 under then head coach Sean McDermott.
“It made a lot of sense in my head,” Gaines said. “I’m familiar with the coach and the scheme and the defensive game plan and everything so it was a no brainer for me.”

Gaines becomes the second cornerback the team has added this offseason, as the club inked former Houston Texans first-round draft pick Kevin Johnson with a one-year deal earlier in the free agent signing period.

Last season, Gaines played with the Cleveland Browns, starting two games and playing in six before ending the year on injured reserve list with a concussion.

“It’s really been frustrating, but that’s been my main focus this offseason, making sure I can stay healthy through 16 games this year,” Gaines said.

“I really can’t change the past and my injury history, but what I can do is make sure I’m ready and prepared for this year.”

Gaines was a sixth round pick of the St. Louis Rams in the 2014 NFL Draft, and played there until he was acquired by the Bills prior to the 2017 season for wide receiver Sammy Watkins.

That season with the Bills he played in 11 games, putting up 59 tackles, nine pass breakups, three forced fumbles and one interception.

Now back with the Bills, Gaines says he’s excited to head back to Buffalo to play in a place where he had success just two years ago.

“I’ve already talked to guys like Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer, just to kind of find out what they’re thinking about this season. They’re just ready to get started like I am,” Gaines said.

“Like I said, it’s great to have those guys still here, who I’ve already worked with, who I’ve already won with. It’s a good thing.”

Orchard Park, N.Y. — Former Buffalo Bills cornerback E.J. Gaines is reportedly returning to the team after one season in Cleveland on a one-year deal.

The contract is reportedly worth one year and $3.6 million, per The Houston Chronicle’s Aaron Wilson.

Gaines played in just six games (two starts) in 2018 with the Browns while dealing with concussion symptoms. He suffered a concussion in Week 6 against the Los Angeles Chargers and when he returned against the Kansas City Chiefs on Nov. 4 he was forced out of action again for the same injury and into the NFL’s concussion protocol.

The Bills also signed veteran cornerback – and former first-round pick out of Wake Forest – Kevin Johnson this offseason after he spent his first four years with the Houston Texans. He too has dealt with concussions and said one of the reasons he signed with Buffalo was for their attention to detail when it comes to player development.

“I had the two concussions back-to-back going into last year and I missed the season for it,” Johnson said. “The sports performance, they have a lot of stuff for the player development with the sports facilities they’re putting together.”

Gaines played 11 games for the Bills in 2017 and finished that season nine pass defenses, one interception and three forced fumbles. He’ll join a cornerbacks room that features starting No. 1 Tre’Davious White, rookie sensation Levi Wallace, slot corner Taron Johnson, Kevin Johnson and Lafayette Pitts.

Gaines has played for the Rams, Bills and Browns in his four-year NFL career.

Donnie Lewis Jersey

The Cleveland Browns used their seventh and final selection, No. 221 overall, to select Tulane cornerback Donnie Lewis.

Lewis was a four year starter at Tulane. He played cornerback, safety and nickelback for the Green Wave. The defensive back was named second-team All-American Athletic Conference this year. The 22 year old had 160 tackles, seven interceptions, 37 pass deflections, two fumble recoveries and half a sack during his career. The 22 year old was third nationally in pass deflections this season.

The Browns hosted him for a Top-30 visit. He also participated in the East-West Shrine Game.

General Manager John Dorsey applied a BandAid to the position last off-season when he signed TJ Carrie, EJ Gaines and Mitchell in free agency. Gaines has since left the team. Mitchell and Ward battled injuries last season. They also return Juston Burris, Phillip Gaines and Tavierre Thomas from last year’s team.

Cleveland selected LSU cornerback Greedy Williams with their second round selection.

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The Browns have seven selections in the 2019 NFL Draft beginning with the No. 49 overall selection, which they used on Williams. Strong safety, offensive tackle, cornerback, outside linebacker and defensive tackle would seem to be the most pressing needs for the team to address. In the off-season, General Manager John Dorsey has traded for defensive end Olivier Vernon and Beckham. As part of those deals, they traded Zeitler and strong safety Jabrill Peppers.

The Cleveland Browns announced that they have signed cornerback Donnie Lewis Jr.

Browns used their seventh and final selection, No. 221 overall, to select Lewis.

Lewis was a four-year starter at Tulane. He played cornerback, safety and nickelback for the Green Wave. The defensive back was named second-team All-American Athletic Conference this year. The 22-years old had 160 tackles, seven interceptions, 37 pass deflections, two fumble recoveries and half a sack during his career. The 22-year-old was third nationally in pass deflections this season.

The Browns hosted him for a Top-30 visit. He also participated in the East-West Shrine Game.

General Manager John Dorsey applied a BandAid to the position last off-season when he signed TJ Carrie, EJ Gaines and Mitchell in free agency. Gaines has since left the team. Mitchell and Ward battled injuries last season. They also return Juston Burris, Phillip Gaines and Tavierre Thomas from last year’s team.

The Browns also announced that they have signed fourth-round Miami safety Sheldrick Redwine and sixth-round offensive line selection Drew Forbes. Second-round cornerback Greedy Williams, third-round linebacker selection Sione Takitaki, fifth-round linebacker Mack Wilson and fifth-round kicker Austin Seibert remain unsigned.

The Cleveland Browns have completed their 2019 NFL Draft. With their final selection, the Browns chose cornerback Donnie Lewis of Tulane at pick No. 221 overall in the seventh round. Cleveland continued their focus on the defensive side of the ball, much like they did throughout the entire draft. Lewis is the fifth defensive player selected by the Browns, including three defensive backs. The Browns clearly wanted to add depth and talent in the secondary.

Lewis played four years at Tulane. In his final season last year, he notched 56 tackles, 2.5 tackles for a loss, 21 passes defended and three interceptions. His senior season earned him All-AAC second-team honors. So, what can the Browns expect from their newest cornerback? Here is what NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein had to say about the Tulane cornerback:

Four-year starter with an appetite for challenging throws and making plays on the football. Lewis has average size but the tape shows a lack of long speed that he was unable to dispel during his pro day due to a foot injury (Jones fracture) sustained during Shrine Game practices. He has the instincts and anticipation to compete as an outside corner in zone-heavy coverage or in man coverage over the slot. His ball production is intriguing, but his physical profile fails to stand out.

The Browns have finished the 2019 NFL Draft with seven selections. The team added five new defenders, one special teams player, and one offensive player. While there is a starter or two mixed in there, the picks add depth, if nothing else. Something that was badly needed on the defensive side of the ball. They may not have any picks remaining, but the draft process is not quite done yet for the orange and brown. Cleveland’s front office will now work the phones to add some undrafted free agents.

Joe has been writing for WFNY since April 2014. He is a diehard Cleveland sports fan, who is just looking for a winner in this town. He has been around sports his entire life by working with the basketball and football teams at St. Ignatius High School and also with the football team at Baldwin Wallace. Besides watching and writing about sports, Joe loves to spend time with his family and two dogs.

The wistfulness in the voice of Donnie Lewis Jr. was evident.

On Thursday during Tulane’s pro day at the Ochsner Sports Performance Center, the former Green Wave defensive back was thrust into the role of the kid sitting at the window, peering outside while his friends were allowed to play.

After a four-year career at Tulane during which he posted 160 tackles (129 solo), seven interceptions (one returned for a touchdown), 37 passes defended, two fumble recoveries and a half-sack, Lewis earned an invitation to the East-West Shrine Game in St. Petersburg, Fla. But during practice for that January all-star game, he suffered a Jones fracture in his left foot (a break between the base and middle part of the fifth metatarsal).

Gone was participating in that game. Gone was participating in Tulane’s pro day.

But he still was present, cheering on his teammates, administering advice where possible.

“It’s tough for me, especially,” said Lewis, who played cornerback, safety and nickelback during his final season at Tulane, and ranked third nationally with 15 passes defended. He was named second-team All-American Athletic Conference.

“Everything was going all good, and then everything just went left,” he said. “So I’ve just got to have faith at this point. I feel I was going to go to the (NFL) Combine, so I had to miss the Combine and I had to miss pro day. So I personally feel that I can’t even get that extra boost to show people. But I’ll keep my faith in God, let it all play out, be patient.”

The injury was expected to sideline him six to eight weeks.

“Within about the next two, three weeks, they said I’ll be back feeling even better than I was before,” he said. “As of right now I’m just continuing to go to physical therapy, and start back working out, gradually getting back to where I use to be.”

Still, Lewis understands the privilege it was to be invited to the East-West Shrine Game.

“It was very special being invited to one of those games, seeing that people have faith in me to give me an opportunity to play on a higher level,” he said. “I’m the type of guy to seize my moment, seize my opportunities and take advantage of my opportunities.”

“The East-West Shrine Game was a great experience. I was out there for a couple of days. It wasn’t all bad. Aside from the foot, everything else was great – got to meet with the coaches, I got to make a bunch of friends just out there playing ball, having fun.”

The experiences that were to be gained and shared Thursday we done so by his teammates, 11 of whom were slated to be put through the paces – heights, weights, bench presses, broad jumps, 40-yard dashes, etc. – during pro day. Joining the Tulane contingent were a combined 14 players from Nicholls State, McNeese State and Louisiana universities.

Among the Green Wave participants was receiver Teddy Encalade, who played at Belle Chasse High and started every game his final three seasons. Encalade caught 119 passes for 1,957 yards and 15 touchdowns during that stretch.

“It was fun, coming out here showing my skills to the scouts,” he said. “It’s a grateful opportunity for me. I felt like I could have done better in everything I did, but you’ve just got to be grateful. An attitude of gratitude.”

“I was nervous, pretty much, a week before. But I would always think to myself, ‘I trained for this, so I shouldn’t be nervous.’ And then when I got out here, my teammates are some really good teammates, so they take that nervousness out of you quick. It feels good to be around those guys and in the situation I’m in.”

Encalade said he believes he could have been more productive during his Tulane tenure, but that he’s confident in his abilities and is eager to showcase them.

“I know what I can do and I’m ready to prove myself to anybody,” he said.

Drew Forbes Jersey

On the football field, Drew Forbes is nasty.

Off the field, Forbes is not.

His wife, Emily, prefers you think of him as the latter, even if his on-field persona landed him a job in the NFL.

“I do (like being called nasty). My wife doesn’t,” Forbes said with a chuckle Friday before the start of rookie minicamp in Berea. “She’s like ‘that’s not a compliment.’ But yeah, absolutely in football. I really like that, I like that that’s kind of seen. That clicked my sophomore year of college, like that’s how you’re going to be successful is being as physical as you can to the whistle.”

If you met Forbes, you’d see why Emily sides with the off-field version of him. He’s mild-mannered, looks you in the eye when talking to you and seems genuine. His small-town roots show rather quickly.

But he wouldn’t be in the NFL if he was that guy on the field. And for a while, he was that guy — until he’d reached his tipping point during college.

The Browns on Saturday selected Southeast Missouri State G Drew Forbes with the No. 189 pick in the sixth round of the 2019 NFL Draft.

Forbes is the Browns’ sixth selection in the draft, following LSU CB Greedy Williams (No. 46), BYU LB Sione Takitaki (No. 80), Miami S Sheldrick Redwine (No. 119), Alabama LB Mack Wilson (No. 155) and Oklahoma K Austin Seibert (No. 170).

“As a scout, it is always fun to try and find your own diamond in the rough or a guy that is under the radar,” Browns scout Colton Chapple said. “I do not know if we spend more time on them. We spent an incredible amount of time on Drew. We did bring him in on a 30 visit just so that we could talk to him because we did not get a chance to at any all-star games or at any combines just to get familiar with the person and familiar with the player at the end of the day.”

Forbes, who hails from Bonne Terre, Missouri, was a three-year starter at left tackle for the Redhawks, earning first-team Ohio Valley Conference honors as a senior. A three-sport athlete, Forbes played on both sides of the ball at North County High before enrolling at Southeast Missouri State in 2015.

“Once he gets onto the field, you do see him flip that switch. He is what we like to call a finisher,” Chapple said. “He will get on you, he will drive you down field and then he will try to finish you. He does, he plays with an extremely high level of toughness, and that is really encouraging to see because you want five of those guys on the field at all times. You want your whole team to play the game not only angry but with passion that Drew has shown just based off of the game tape that we have been able to watch.”

This is the pick I have been waiting since day one for. Drew is by far the most overlooked prospect in the NFL draft. That is not just my opinion either. Sports Illustrated posted their yearly article called “Prospect X” which covers the most overlooked prospect in the current year’s draft and this year “Prospect X” was Drew Forbes. He had flown under the radar for most of the year as Southeast Missouri State had typically been on the bottom have of the Ohio Valley Conference for nearly the past decade. However, he was propelled back into the spotlight after his impressive pro day.

Drew as a player is an animal out on the field. He is someone you would never want to mess with at all. However, off the field, he is one of the nicest guys you will ever meet. He is incredibly down to earth and the kind of guy you would want to just go out and grab a drink with. While he seems like this larger than life guy he is so genuine and cares about everyone he comes in contact with. Every team needs players with high character and Drew is that guy.

The reveal of “Prospect X” just came out today, and I was right on the money, it was none other than Drew Forbes. If you have yet to check out both articles, I HIGHLY suggest you do. It gives a lot of inside on not just Drew, but how highly John Dorsey and the Browns Brass thinks of him. It goes in depth about the draft party that is just a couple miles away from campus and about his personal life and how much of a family man he is.

Aside from just how amazing of a person is, he is a perfect fit for the Cleveland Browns. Really, the only help the Browns need on offense is the offensive line and Drew has the grit and the tenacity to be great. There has been a lot of talk about Drew playing guard, however, Cleveland plans to keep him at tackle and trying to develop him there before deciding to make that switch. I really think he has the chance to become a starter on the line and turn into a top talent. My comparison for Drew is Joe Thomas. A massive human being who can move anyone he wants to. Also, you know it’s a good pick if John Dorsey makes it. Cleveland, welcome your newest rookie, Drew Forbes.

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It took until the sixth round, but the Cleveland Browns have made their first selection on the offensive side of the ball. With the 189th overall pick in sixth round of the 2019 NFL Draft, the Browns selected offensive lineman Drew Forbes of Southeast Missouri State. The Browns are a team in need of depth on the offensive line and it looks like they selected a versatile one in Forbes.

Forbes played offensive tackle in college, but the Browns announced him as an offensive guard, a position many draft analysts project him to play. In his senior season last year, he earned second-team Associated Press FCS All-American honors and first-team All-Ohio Valley Conference honors. Here is what NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein had to say about newest Browns offensive lineman:

Forbes lacks the size and length to stay at left tackle and will need to transition inside to guard as a pro. He’s a determined blocker with enough athletic ability and instincts in space to transition into a role as a backup zone-scheme guard. If he continues to operate out over his skis and with late hands in pass pro, he will have a difficult time dealing with NFL interior linemen. If a coach can correct those muscle memory issues, he has the upside to keep moving forward and up the depth chart.

Drew Forbes is a Bonne Terre, MO product, and made his name at tiny Southeast Missouri State in the Ohio Valley Conference. Forbes was a 3 year starter at left tackle for the Redhawks, winning the team’s award for best offensive lineman in his sophomore year, his first year as a starter. In his junior year, he was named second team All Ohio Valley Conference, leading a line which allowed only 14 sacks all year. After his senior season, he was selected as an FCS second team All American by the Associated Press. Snubbed by the Combine, Forbes’ stock has improved dramatically in recent weeks as a result of an impressive Pro Day performance. He posted numbers on key metrics that would have had him among the top OL at the NFL combine. His 40 yd time (4.87) would have been the best speed among that group with his bench press (28), vertical jump (30.5”), and 3 cone (7.59 seconds) being top ten scores.

Lyndell Wilson Jersey

Lyndell “Mack” Wilson remembers what it felt like not knowing where his next meal would be coming from, or where they would be sleeping that night.

Those memories still haunt the now-former Alabama middle linebacker and served as a key motivating factor for his ultimate decision to leave early for the 2019 NFL draft.

“It played a huge factor, because growing up I saw my mom struggle trying to raise five kids, and it was really hard for us,” Wilson said.

For several months back in 2011, Sandra Wilson and her three youngest boys — Wendell Jr., Lyndell and Lamario — lived out of the InTown Suites beside the Stivers Ford Lincoln dealership in southeast Montgomery after she lost her job and was unable to pay rent.

“We stayed in the hotel for four to six months, and it might have been longer,” Sandra Wilson recalled recently.

During this time, Sandra had few options and four young children to worry about. She managed to place her high school-aged daughter, Jakeisha, with her sister for a few months, but Sandra and her three boys — Lyndell and Lamario were still in middle school at the time — were relegated to a double-bed room at an extended stay hotel unsure what the future held.

“One particular time, money got so low, I couldn’t buy my children anything to eat,” Sandra said.

Thankfully, the generosity of a close friend helped provide groceries, and it wasn’t long before Sandra’s mother learned of their situation and took her and her children in until she could get back on her feet financially.

But it’s those moments of watching his mother’s struggles that weighed heavily on “Mack” Wilson’s mind as he contemplated whether to return to Alabama for his senior season or forgo that in favor of early entrance to the NFL.

As a potential first- or second-round selection in April’s NFL draft, it could substantially alter the lives of his family for generations.

“That’s something I really want to try to achieve,” Wilson said. “I want to get as much money as I can while playing in the National Football League. I want to be able to take care of my mom forever, because she sacrificed a lot when we were young.”

According to Spotrac.com, if Wilson — who’s widely considered one of the top inside linebackers in an otherwise weak draft class at his position — is selected between picks No. 20-32 in the first round, he could receive a rookie contract worth between $10-$12.5 million with a guaranteed signing bonus ranging from $5.3-7.1 million.

For comparison, former Alabama receiver Calvin Ridley earned a $10.9 million deal as the 26th overall pick last year by the Atlanta Falcons, including $9.9 million guaranteed.

Wilson’s slot value obviously drops if he were to fall out of the first round. But even within the first 15 picks of the second round, where the value of his projected rookie contract dips to between $6.2-7.8 million with a signing bonus ranging between $2.5-3.5 million.
Wilson projects as a Day 1-2 tweener

The significant financial drop-off between the first and second round is one of the main reasons Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban generally prefers that any of his players that aren’t first-round locks return to school for another year to hopefully improve their draft stock with a productive senior season.

“If you’re a first-round draft pick, to me, it’s a no-brainer that you go out for the draft,” Saban said last August. “We’ve had 29 guys go out, and we’ve probably had four guys that made not so good decisions. And I don’t think any of those four guys played much longer than a year (in the NFL). So, they should have stayed in college.

“If you have a second- or third-round grade, to me, you have a tough decision to make as to whether you come back and try to move up or graduate, stay in school, and the benefits of all that. To me, every guy’s a little bit different in what their goals and aspirations are. But your security really is created by where do you enter the league?

“The higher you get picked in the draft, the more guaranteed money you have, the better off your security circumstances are because you’re not going to get cut if you have a lot of guaranteed money. So, now they have to develop you. But when you get drafted in the third round, you’re rolling the dice big time.”

While it’s yet to be seen if Wilson is “rolling the dice” or just betting on himself, Saban made it clear to those closest to Wilson that it was his hope he’d stay at Alabama.

And, at least initially, Wilson was of the same opinion, especially immediately following the Crimson Tide’s disappointing 44-16 loss to Clemson in the national championship game.

“It was definitely a back-and-forth thing, but I feel like I was making an emotional decision because after we lost, I wanted to come back,” Wilson said. “I wanted to win (another national championship), I wanted to achieve all these accolades that I set goals for last season. It was really hard, trying to think about what could possibly happen in the future.”

Even Wilson’s own mother believed he’d return for his senior season, telling the Montgomery Advertiser in mid-December: “My baby, you know, he told me that he wasn’t ready. He wasn’t ready to go to the next level yet because I guess there’s certain goals that he’s set that he’s trying to accomplish.”

“And the way he was posting (on social media) I thought he was going back,” Sandra said recently. “But then he sat down here and said, ‘Momma, I’m going to do what’s best for me.’ And I said, ‘Well, baby, you do what’s best for you because you know Momma has your back. Whatever decision you make I’m with you.’ ”

Saban made late push for Wilson return

Even then, Wilson labored over his decision, especially as Saban ramped up the pressure on Wilson to return while more of his fellow underclassmen made their own decisions to turn pro.

In the weekend leading up to the NFL’s Jan. 14 deadline for underclassmen to declare for the draft, Saban made multiple attempts to sway Wilson to come back, including reaching out to both Sandra and Wilson’s godfather, Todd Dowell.

“I talked with Coach (Saban), he talked to me, and he explained to me that he felt like ‘Mack’ was really not ready to go to the next level, there’s still a little more that he needed to learn,” Sandra said. “And like I told him, I understood that, but at the end of the day, it’s still Mack’s decision.”

Dowell, a well-known mentor in the Montgomery area who took Wilson in as a ward when he was 13, said he and Saban spoke on the phone Jan. 12, the day before Wilson was set to finalize his decision.

After Saban made his case for Wilson’s return to Alabama, citing his lack of maturity and potential for further growth within the Tide’s highly structured environment, Dowell countered with a question: “You’ve had him three years. What are you going to do in a year that you haven’t done in three?”

Dowell said Saban fell silent.

“He couldn’t answer,” Dowell recalled.

In a last-ditch effort, Saban suggested he’d fly to Montgomery that Sunday for a face-to-face meeting with Wilson and his family.

“I was like, ‘There’s no need, there’s no need for that,’” Dowell said.

A day later, after first mustering the courage to tell Saban of his decision, Wilson announced he was turning pro in a social media post, becoming the record-seventh Alabama underclassman to formerly declare for the 2019 NFL draft.

“Saban called and called, and I was like, ‘’Mack,’ you’ve got to tell him,’” Dowell recalled. “’Mack’ finally said, ‘Coach, I’m going to declare,’ and (Saban) was like, ‘You sure, ‘Mack’?’ He said, ‘Mack, do you have all the facts?’ And ‘Mack’ was like, ‘Yes sir.’ That was the hardest part.”

Wilson makes final preparations for combine

Since making his decision, Wilson has dedicated himself to preparing for the NFL combine, which runs Feb. 26-March 4 from Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

Wilson has split his time over the last month working out alongside fellow Alabama NFL hopefuls at the team’s athletic complex in Tuscaloosa and individually at Montgomery’s M.A.D.House Training facility off Brewbaker Boulevard, where he gets specialized workouts and a meal plan intended to help further refine his already natural speed and athleticism in an effort to impress scouts and general managers next week.

Those closest to him believe if Wilson performs at the combine like they know he’s capable of — namely running a 4.5-second time in the 40-yard-dash, a vertical jump of 35 inches or more, and an 11-12-foot broad jump — he’ll more than do enough to secure that’s he’s a first-round selection.

“’Mack’ does that in his sleep,” Dowell said. “His competition right now is (LSU’s) Devin White. (Michigan linebacker Devin) Bush pops in here and there, but none of them are as explosive as ‘Mack.’ Devin (White) can probably run as fast as ‘Mack,’ but definitely isn’t going to be able to do drills like ‘Mack.’

“So, at this point, if ‘Mack’ does that (at the combine), Mack’s going to be a first-round pick.”

Of course, not everyone is so sure.

ESPN NFL draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. didn’t have Wilson among his top-32 selections in his initial first-round mock draft released this week, projecting Wilson as a second-round selection.

During a teleconference Tuesday, Kiper said he considered Wilson a “solid mid-first rounder” in August but dropped him down his draft board after a less-than-stellar junior campaign.

“I thought ‘Mack’ Wilson, back in August, would be a guy that would be a solid mid-first rounder, and follow in the footsteps of all those other great inside linebackers coming out of Alabama,” Kiper said Tuesday. “But he didn’t have the year expected. I thought he’d go back, he didn’t. He’s in this draft.

“I think he could be a late one, but I’m projecting him more as a two.”

The Athletic’s Dane Brugler ranks Wilson as the draft’s No. three inside linebacker, praising his natural athleticism and elite ability as a “violent hit-lift-drive tackler” that “competes with an attacking mindset and burst as a blitzer.”

In the same article, Brugler also described Wilson’s “poor habits in pursuit,” and as a player who “tends to attack before reading, leading to false steps” with “minimal production behind the line of scrimmage,” citing his single season as Alabama’s starting middle linebacker among his “weaknesses.”

Brugler called Wilson an “inconsistent version” of Indianapolis Colts second-round pick Darius Leonard, the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year after leading the league with 163 tackles last season.

He said Wilson remains one to the top linebackers in this year’s class, mostly due to his status as an “impressive size/speed/strength athlete with the versatile skill set to develop into a true three-down NFL player.”

Still, whether Wilson made the right choice to forgo his final season at Alabama and turn pro pays off like he hopes is to be determined.

But Wilson has finally found peace with his choice.

“I had to go with what was best for me and my family, which is why I feel like I made the best decision,” Wilson said.

‘Road to Nashville’

The “Road to Nashville” is a series produced by Gannett newspapers in the South to chronicle the journeys of six football stars on their journeys and preparations for the NFL draft to be held in Nashville on April 25-27 in Nashville.

Each Tuesday and Friday from Feb. 22 through April 23, a story will be released profiling one of six players from the best college football programs in the country.

The reporters featured include the Montgomery Advertiser’s Alex Byington (Alabama) and Josh Vitale (Auburn), the Jackson Clarion-Ledger’s Nick Suss (Ole Miss) and Tyler Horka (Mississippi State), The Shreveport Times’ Roy Lang III (LSU) and The Greenville News’ Scott Keepfer (Clemson).