We’re rolling into June with five of your questions in the first Browns Mailbag of the month.
Tank Carder is from Sweeny, Texas, my hometown. He’s listed as a linebacker but I know he plays on special teams. Is he healthy and expected to play? I think he’s coming off an ACL injury from last season. -- Matt K., Needville, Texas
Carder, one of the longest tenured Browns, is working his way back from a knee injury he suffered in early August of last year. The former captain has been a mainstay in the Browns facility while recovering from the injury and has been seen pedaling on a stationary bicycle during the team’s OTAs. Browns coach Hue Jackson hasn’t given a specific timeline for his return but it appears to be imminent. Jackson has shown a propensity to not rush players back from injury, especially at this time of year and especially with a player that carries the kind of experience Carder does. When Carder returns, he’ll be competing with the likes of Joe Schobert and Justin Currie, both of whom worked at middle linebacker during Wednesday’s OTA, and players such as rookie Genard Avery and B.J. Bello on special teams.
Other than Njoku, what other TE shows great promise? -- William C., Columbus
Don’t go sleeping on Seth DeValve. The third-year tight end once again figures to have a key role on Cleveland’s offense coming off a year in which he made a number of big catches. In fact, DeValve was second on the team in receptions -- just one ahead of David Njoku -- and second in receiving yards (395). The Browns have a lot more options when it comes to playmakers in 2018, and DeValve should be very much included in that group. He runs his routes with the precision of a wide receiver and has gotten better and better at the grunt work that comes with being an NFL tight end. Darren Fells, whom the Browns signed in free agency, is also a big target in the passing game who will help the team most as a blocker.
Players participate in OTAs on Wednesday.
Briean Boddy-Calhoun has been impressive and is an underdog in his role to make the team. What are your thoughts if he could play free safety much like Tashaun Gipson did with the Browns? -- Rob M., Fairmont, West Virginia
I wouldn’t necessarily call Boddy-Calhoun an underdog entering this season. He’s been a vital piece in Cleveland’s secondary over the past two seasons and is essentially the one regular player from the group who was retained entering 2018. Starters Jamar Taylor and Jason McCourty have both been traded, a number of players were added in free agency and Denzel Ward was selected with the fourth overall pick. Boddy-Calhoun’s position versatility makes him very valuable to defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and it’s been on display throughout OTAs. On Wednesday, Boddy-Calhoun, at times, lined up in the slot with the first-team defense. At other times, he was backing up free safety Damarious Randall. The competition level is definitely higher within the secondary, and Boddy-Calhoun will have to work hard to land a spot that nets playing time. He just clearly has the traits and skills Cleveland’s coaches and new front office like.
The Browns have added some seemingly quality undrafted free agents such as lineman Trenton Thompson, kick returner/wideout Evan Berry, and others. Who do you realistically expect to make the team/contribute? GO BROWNS! -- Brad H., Bellbrook
The stockpiling of talent and the emergence of players who appear to be locked into spots at their respective positions will make it a much tougher challenge for Cleveland’s undrafted free agents than it has been in recent years. That said, there are some intriguing players from that group who are competing at spots where the Browns have some openings. Desmond Harrison, who began his college career at Texas and finished at West Georgia, is in the mix at left tackle and Berry has an opportunity to make a mark on kick returns. The Browns are deeper at wide receiver than they were last year, but there could be an opportunity for Da’Mari Scott or Derrick Willies to secure a roster or practice squad spot in the coming months. On defense, players like Elijah Campbell and Micah Hannemann could have a shot to secure a spot at safety, where the Browns have a little room for depth.
What is the status for 2017 draft picks Howard Wilson and Roderick Johnson? Both position groups were overhauled this offseason. Any chance either player surprises us? -- Steve K., Piqua
Both players continue to recover from the injuries that respectively robbed them of their 2017 seasons. It’s unclear when either player will be back to full capacity, but when they are, they project to compete at their respective positions as they look to latch onto the 53-man roster.