We’re barreling toward the start of the 2018 NFL season and taking time to answer five of your questions as we head into Steelers week.
Why would we keep a player like DeValve and cut Cajuste? DeValve had two years to prove his worth and didn't really look all that impressive, but Cajuste looked like a real playmaker who will go play special teams or offense. I do like the front office and the coordinators. Maybe finally in my 54 years I can see a championship team. -- Harvey S., Southington
DeValve’s quadriceps injury made things a little tricky when it came to cutting the roster to 53, but I’ll strongly disagree with your belief that he’s yet to prove his worth. Despite missing most of training camp as a rookie, DeValve contributed with two touchdown catches and a handful of other big catches in 2016. This past season, he was the team’s second-leading receiver behind Duke Johnson. All the while, he’s improved as a blocker and remains one of the best route runners at his position. When he’s healthy, he’ll contribute.
With that in mind, it made keeping a player like Cajuste difficult. The Browns opted to keep four tight ends because Orson Charles provides veteran experience and versatility, especially in the wake of fullback Danny Vitale’s calf injury. Charles can play that position in a pinch and could line up for a play or two in that spot Sunday against the Steelers.
I don't understand why the Browns traded Shon Coleman for a seventh-round draft pick. Coleman was a starter all season in 2017. Coleman started 32 games at Auburn and gained second team All-SEC honors as a senior. He was a third-round choice of the Browns in 2016! Seventh-rounders rarely become starters. Further, they don’t have the credibility of Coleman. So my question is … how many John Dorsey, Andrew Berry or Eliot Wolf/Alonzo Highsmith seventh-round draft picks have become starters? -- Bob K., Ravenna
You’re right that most seventh-round picks don’t become starters. Many don’t even make their team’s initial 53-man roster. In this case, though, it’s irrelevant. The Coleman trade was about receiving some form of compensation for a player who wasn’t in great position to make the 53-man roster. By the dress rehearsal game, Coleman, who began training camp as the starting left tackle, was lined up as the third-string right tackle behind Chris Hubbard and Greg Robinson. A fresh start could do Coleman some good. So, instead of just placing him on the waiver wire, the Browns put him in a place where he could get just that while also acquiring some draft capital.
We’ll get a better idea of that as the week progresses, but odds are good at least a couple of them will be active. The ones that appear to be the most likely are the newly acquired defensive linemen, Carl Davis and Ifeadi Odenigbo, who are essentially replacing players -- Jamie Meder and Carl Nassib -- who had significant roles with the first and second units. Davis is one of four defensive tackles and one of two who joined the team within the past few days, as Devaroe Lawrence was acquired one day earlier in a trade with the Saints. Davis brings the most experience of any of the team’s waiver claims, as he enters his fourth season with 12 starts and 28 games of experience under his belt. Even with the presence of Myles Garrett and Emmanuel Ogbah, defensive coordinator Gregg Williams likes to rotate his defensive ends for a few series throughout the game. Odenigbo, who has been in the league since 2017 after his time at Northwester, played defensive tackle for the Vikings during the preseason. He recorded two sacks and 11 tackles.
“Paint,” of course, is defensive back Jeremiah McKinnon, who made the team’s initial 53-man roster but was waived the following day in the wake of the team’s five claims. He returned to the practice squad Monday after a preseason that saw him join the team a few days into training camp, promptly make big plays on the practice field and provide consistency with the second- and third-team defense. Injuries happen all throughout the season, and practice squad players are typically the first summoned as replacements whenever those maladies affect the position they play. Last year, five members of the team’s initial practice squad went on to play for the active roster, including wide receiver Rashard Higgins.
Since we covered Davis and Odenigbo in the previous question, let’s talk a bit about the other three. Aaron Neary gives the Browns a backup center who very well could be active Sunday for that very reason. He got his first ever start last year Week 17 for the Rams after spending most of the previous two years on practice squads. DB Tavierre Thomas essentially takes the place of McKinnon as the team’s sixth cornerback. He moves up to fifth in the rotation if E.J. Gaines is unable to play because of his knee injury. Thomas was an undrafted free agent out of Ferris State who is poised to help the Browns on special teams if he’s active. Vallejo is expected to do the same as the team’s sixth linebacker. A former sixth-round pick, Vallejo appeared in 15 games last season for the Bills. He was a popular commodity on the waiver wire, as the Browns were one of three teams to put in a claim for the former Boise State product.