Undrafted linebacker Willie Harvey turned in a dominant fourth-quarter performance for the Cleveland Browns, resisting an Indianapolis comeback in the second exhibition game.
Willie Harvey took over the fourth quarter versus Indianapolis and was one of the leaders as the Cleveland Browns smothered a late rally and preserved a 21-18 win. Harvey’s most outstanding play came on fourth down, when he blew through the Colts’ pass protection, then batted down the attempted pass from Chad Kelly.
That sealed the Browns’ victory, but Harvey did not jump up and down and celebrate. Perhaps he was minding the ghost of Browns’ first Coach who used to urge his troops, “Act like you’ve been there before!” Now, there’s nothing wrong with big celebrations, but for this old school fan, it was inspiring to see a rookie remain calm, cool and collected after saving the victory with a big play.
Granted it was an exhibition game against third-string talent, but it was an exciting play no matter what the circumstances. But that was not all he did. The former Iowa State Cyclone’s fourth quarter looked like this:
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First and ten at the Cleveland 31, blitzed, hit and disrupted Chad Kelly resulting in an incomplete pass.
Third and three at the Cleveland 34, tackled Hale Hentges after a five-yard gain.
Third and one and the Cleveland 10, tackled Aca’Cedric Ware for no gain
Then on fourth and one came the highlight play that shut down the Colts for good.
This is the highlight so far for a summer camp which has been praiseworthy from the get-go. Harvey was an undrafted free agent, probably on the grounds that he is a little undersized at 5-foot-11, 230-pounds, and did not burn up the 40-yard dash at 4.72 seconds. But make no mistake there are players who are smaller and slower who are making a decent living in the NFL. Football savvy and “want-to” can make up for it.
Willie Harvey had an incredible fourth quarter, though it may be argued it came against weak competition and there is no guarantee that he can make those plays against the first string. Still, performing at a high level is significant, even in an exhibition game.
However, the roster numbers are against him, with probably only seven roster spaces for linebackers. It’s likely that six of those roster spots will be filled by Christian Kirksey, Joe Schobert, Genard Avery, Adarius Taylor, Sione Takitaki and Mack Wilson.
Harvey would have to beat out the likes of Ray-Ray Armstrong, Anthony Stubbs, and Dedrick Young. Alternatively, he could be kept on the Practice Squad for a while. Special teams will be an important factor, and in this case, Armstrong took 139 special teams snaps last year, meaning that if he is not on the team, special teams coach Mike Priefer is going to have to figure out who can actually replace Armstrong on special teams.
Nothing has been decided by one brilliant quarter, but one thing is certain. Willie Harvey will remember this game his entire life.