Can Damon Sheehy-Guiseppi make Cleveland Browns roster as returner?
The remarkable story of Cleveland Browns rookie Damon Sheehy-Guiseppi continued Thursday, but can he make the final roster primarily as a returner?
The Cleveland Browns defeated the Washington Redskins 30-10 on Thursday night, but that was not the biggest story from the preseason opener. Instead, the story of the game ended up being rookie wide receiver Damon Sheehy-Guiseppi.
Sheehy-Guiseppi’s difficult and fascinating path to getting a workout with the Browns has been well-chronicled. And he was able to cap off that amazing story with a touchdown in his NFL debut.
The 24-year-old returned his only punt return 86 yards for a touchdown, causing almost the entire Browns bench to meet him in the endzone and dog-piling on Sheehy-Guiseppi in celebration.
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That moment highlighted why the Browns signed Sheehy-Guiseppi following his workout. The wide receiver has top-notch speed that can’t be taught, and it could make him a dynamic playmaker on special teams.
And he has been that type of playmaker earlier in his football career. When Sheehy-Guiseppi played for Phoenix College, he was an NJCAA All-American returner. In 2016, he had 1,278 kick return yards and returned four kicks for touchdowns.
With the Browns putting a greater emphasis on special teams, Sheehy-Guiseppi’s returning abilities should have him in the mix for one of Cleveland’s final roster spots. Especially if they are trying to turn around their return units in 2019. The last time Cleveland returned a kick or punt for a touchdown was in 2015.
Cleveland has not had a returner who has the talent to give the offense a short field to work with on regular occasion, limiting what their special teams units are capable of. But as Sheehy-Guiseppi showed Thursday night, he may finally be the type of returner the Browns were looking for.
However, if Sheehy-Guiseppi wants to improve his chances of making Cleveland’s final roster, he either has to create big plays every time he returns a kick or punt during the preseason, or also make some plays as a receiver. On Thursday night, Sheehy-Guiseppi caught two passes for 12 yards.
The Browns have a loaded wide receiver depth chart, with players like Derrick Willies and Jaelen Strong making plays with the first-team offense. With Sheehy-Guiseppi sitting behind Strong and Willies on the depth chart, it will be hard for him to overtake them on the wide receiver depth chart at this point.
However, if Willies and Strong want to make the final roster, they are also going to need to make plays on special teams. Every player who battles for a final roster spot typically earns the job with special teams play, so it will not be any different for Strong and Willies.
Sheehy-Guiseppi may be Cleveland’s best option to be their returner. But if he struggles with returns or can’t make plays at receiver during the preseason, he will have diminished chances at making the final 53-man roster. But even if he does not win a job, his touchdown Thursday night will be one of the best stories of Cleveland’s 2019 season.