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.
“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.