Preseason is over, cuts have been made and we're staring down the barrel of a for-better-or-worse active roster. But what about the other guys—the ones who put in the work without any of the glory or exhaustive postgame analysis? They're the Maggie Simpsons of football, constantly knocking their heads against the proverbial coffee table without anyone noticing.
I'm speaking of the Cleveland Browns practice squad.
There are actually a few guys to watch here. Over half of the eight-man unit is made up of rookies, which gives our first- and second-stringers some fresh legs with which to contend during the week. Here are my top three predictions for guys who could eventually become difference-makers on Sundays.
Cooper's catch against the Detroit Lions earned him some well-deserved attention, but it wasn't quite enough to earn him a spot on the active roster. That's okay, because this is a kid with plenty of talent and enough time to develop it.
What's more is that he's got a history with Brandon Weeden, the guy who is carrying so many eggs in his freckle basket. I'm hoping their history and chemistry will make for some pretty connections in practice and get Cooper a chance to prove himself on the big stage.
There are a couple of reasons I'll have my eye on this former Buckeye. First of all, he's large and in charge. At 6'7" and over 300 pounds, he's got the stature to compete in the NFL. Admittedly, he was plagued by a few injuries during college, but that's no reason to write him off.
Secondly, he's a right tackle on a right-challenged squad. That means more opportunities to improve his game and eventually contend for a spot on the roster.
I love the guy because I have the sensibility of an eight-year-old. But beyond that, he does have the ability and the opportunity to emerge as a valuable role player in the Browns offense.
Besides holding it down in the most competitive conference in college football, Brad also made a few clutch plays for the Crimson Tide. During his senior year, he was known to convert a few critical first downs and show a great deal of poise under pressure.
He's got a little more height than Owen Marecic and could use that to his advantage, particularly if he trains hard and puts on some bulk.
Along with Jarrod Shaw, Garth Gerhart, Ronnie Cameron, Benjamin Jacobs and the recently signed Brian Sanford, this Cleveland practice squad isn't entirely unlike the guys who won the starting spots. There's considerable talent, exciting potential and very little actual NFL experience.
Hopefully, they will keep a healthy amount of pressure on the starters while amassing the critical experience it takes to actually contend with them.