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Under-the-radar Browns WRs Darius Jennings, Rannell Hall making push

Darius Jennings waited until Week 13 of the 2015 season to make his NFL debut. Rannell Hall waited longer, going all the way to the final moments of Cleveland's season-ending loss to Pittsburgh to play his first and only snap of his rookie season.

For both undrafted wide receivers, the path to playing time required more than just a little patience. Both, at different points in their respective first NFL seasons, were released. Hall was dropped twice by Tampa Bay before the Browns signed him off the Buccaneers' practice squad in mid-December. Jennings was a practice squad player for the first 12 weeks, played in two games, re-signed with the team after a Week 15 release and amassed nine catches over the final two weeks.

"You've always got to prepare as a starter," Jennings said, "because you never know in this league."

Jennings and Hall remained with the team throughout the offseason and enter training camp as two of 11, mostly young receivers vying for a spot on the Browns' 53-man roster. With the Browns returning the likes of Andrew Hawkins, Terrelle Pryor, Marlon Moore and Taylor Gabriel and using four of their 14 draft picks on the position, Jennings and Hall know nothing will come easy over the next two months.

Without experiencing too much on the field as rookies, they learned plenty about how the NFL operates away from it.

"You start to notice this is the real deal," Hall said. "You've got to embrace every day. No days are taken for granted. Every day is a new opportunity, so you have to go out and give 100 percent. Every day is all about effort."

Take a look at the Cleveland Browns roster as of September 1, 2017.

Jennings' effort stood out the moment he arrived in Berea last May.

The former Virginia standout went undrafted and unsigned before landing with the Browns as one of 50 tryout players at the team's rookie minicamp. He made the cut to land a spot on the 90-man roster and proved his worth throughout training camp and the preseason, shining as both a receiver and kick returner.

There wasn't room on the initial 53-man roster, but Jennings was promptly brought back on the practice squad and remained there for 12 straight weeks. Injuries at the position opened the door for his Week 13 debut, and he made the most of it, catching five passes for 35 yards in a loss to the Bengals. Following his Week 15 release, Jennings returned and caught three passes for 37 yards against the Chiefs and added six receptions for 45 yards in the season finale against Pittsburgh.

When Jennings met with senior offensive assistant/wide receivers coach Al Saunders earlier this offseason, the veteran coach's message was simple: Jennings has what it takes to play in the NFL.

"It doesn't matter where you come from. I was a tryout guy last year. Once your foot is in the door, you're in the door," Jennings said. "I always had that mindset but just hearing it from someone else is reassuring. Kind of gets you focused and motivated."

Hall landed with the Browns shortly after Jennings made his on-field debut.

After a total of eight weeks on Tampa Bay's practice squad, Hall was in Cleveland and on the active roster with three games left in the season. He had a brand new offense to learn in a short amount of time, so he crammed night and day to prepare himself for whenever the opportunity would present itself. That came in the waning moments of the season finale and, a few weeks later, it was time to learn another brand new offense.

Throughout Cleveland's OTAs and minicamp, Hall made a number of noticeable plays and received constant encouragement from Saunders. It's a step in the right direction toward a regular gig, but Hall knows there's much more to accomplish in the coming months.

"He can see I can make plays, which every receiver can do in the room," Hall said. "Pretty much the main thing he focuses on is giving effort every day. You can't teach effort. That's the main thing."

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