The Cleveland Browns have, at least on paper, what could be one of the best group of wide receivers in the NFL in 2019.
As the club prepares for the opening of the preseason schedule on Thursday against the Washington Redskins, there is little doubt that the top four spots at the position are set, as Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins and Antonio Callaway are locks to make the roster.
Cleveland opened the season last year with six wide receivers on the roster, which if that holds true again this season, means there will be just two roster spots available.
One player that is working to ensure his name remains on that 53-man roster when the season opens is Derrick Willies.
An undrafted free agent in 2018, Willies made the team out of training camp but saw no action until Week 5, when his 39-yard catch-and-run helped set up the game-winning field goal in the Browns overtime win against the Baltimore Ravens.
Unfortunately for Willies, he broke his collarbone the following week in practice and landed on injured reserve.
During Saturday’s Orange and Brown scrimmage, Willie spent time with starters as part of a three wide receiver set with Beckham and Landry, and caught the eye of head coach Freddie Kitchens, according to clevelandbrowns.com:
“Last year, he demonstrated the ability to catch the ball and run after the catch with the ball. He is a big target, of course – a big rangy target. Then he helped us out last year on special teams tremendously. He was really doing a good job on special teams and then he was coming on as a receiver. We need Derrick to keep coming, to keep doing his job and stay in his book and knowing what to do, how to do it and when to do it, and Derrick will be fine. Right now, he just needs to keep working.”
For his part, Willies continues to look to make the most of his opportunities amid a crowded position, as he told clevelandbrowns.com last week:
“I am just going out and doing what I can, making sure that I know the plays, executing and doing what I am supposed to do. Everything else will take care of itself. Every day is important. You can’t take anything for granted. Every rep matters.”
The Browns are crowded at the wide receiver position, so opportunities for the second-tier players may be few and far between this fall.
But if 2018 is any indication, the should be able to count on Willies if they need to call on him at some point during the season.