Willie Harvey has had very few opportunities with the Browns
The Cleveland Browns need to find out what they have in Willie Harvey, who was outstanding in limited snaps in 2019 summer camp. He wound up on Injured Reserve early in the regular season before he could accumulate snaps with the defensive unit in a regular season game. Harvey played special teams in two games last year, and in the preseason looked like Lawrence Taylor against third string players.
We just do not know what he can do against the first string in a real game. With the recent injury to Mack Wilson, there may be a need and opportunity to find out sooner rather than later.
Versus the Colts’ bottom-of-the-roster players in preseason exhibition football, the former Iowa State Cyclone’s dossier looked like this after coming into the game in the fourth quarter — on first-and-10 at the Indy 23, he combined with Carl Davis to stuff D’Onta Foreman for a one yard loss. On third-and-three at the Cleveland 34, tackled Hale Hentges after a five-yard gain. On first-and-10 at the Cleveland 31, he blitzed, hit and disrupted Chad Kelly resulting in an incomplete pass. On third-and-one at the Cleveland 10, he tackled Aca’Cedric Ware for no gain. On-fourth and-one at the Cleveland nine, he blew up the Colts’ pass protection, then batted down the attempted pass from Chad Kelly and salted the Cleveland victory.
He was totally cool about turning in the game-saving play. All in a day’s work, ladies and gentlemen. To this fan, Harvey was the consummate Cleveland Brown. He acted like a man who simply expected to excel and to win.
That performance was enough to win him a gig on the Practice Squad, and he received a promotion to the 53 player roster when Christian Kirksey went down. Unfortunately, after only two games Harvey wound up on Injured Reserve with a shoulder injury, and we never saw what he could do against the NFL’s best in a starting role.
Harvey was an undrafted free agent, probably because he is a little undersized at 5-foot-11, 230-pounds, and he did not burn up the track during the 40-yard dash at 4.72 seconds. On the other hand the Browns sent Joe Schobert to the Pro Bowl, and he was a 4.76 guy, and Christian Kirksey was But 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.
Last season he played special teams for the Browns after Christian Kirksey was injured and was definitely a gamer. But he made a name for himself in the preseason against Indianapolis last season, In the fourth quarter — understand, against primarily third string defenders — he helped the Browns crush a Colts rally to preserve a 21-18 win. We did not see enough of Harvey to form a complete judgment, but from what we did see of him there were zero negatives.
In other words, look, we know the picture is incomplete but the early returns were so promising that we have to complete the evaluation. This kid has to find playing time this year.
Cleveland figures to platoon their linebackers this year, using extra defensive backs frequently. Other linebackers include veterans B. J. Goodson and Tae Davis; second year man Sione Takitaki, 2020 third round pick Jacob Phillips, 2020 undrafted free agent Solomon Ajayi. In passing situations, the Browns figure to use only two linebackers most of the time in situational defenses, as opposed to the every-down linebacker like Joe Schobert and Jamie Collins that the Browns have traditionally used.
Goodson, Takitaki and Phillips would be the hardest players to completely displace in the lineup. Harvey should get some spot opportunities even so, and will have a chance to earn additional playing time.