Willies is 6-foot-4, 207 pounds is in his second season out of Texas Tech. He was originally signed by the Browns as an undrafted free agent in 2018. Throughout his two-year career, he has appeared in five games and logged three receptions for 61 yards — all with the Browns.
#Browns signed an old friend to the practice squad in receiver Derrick Willies. Originally signed by the Browns as an undrafted rookie out of Texas Tech in '18.
— Mary Kay Cabot (@MaryKayCabot) November 17, 2020
His 2018 season fell short after he was placed on injured reserve during Week 6 with a shoulder injury. Willies was exclusively on the practice squad last season.
The Browns worked out Willies this week, along with linebacker Cale Garrett and wide receiver Marcus Green.
Cleveland is in need of some insurance depth at wide receiver with Odell Beckham Jr. going down with a season-ending ACL tear. Ryan Switzer, who was on the Browns practice squad, also was placed on the injured list last week, so Willies will essentially fill his spot.
Rashard Higgins, Donovan Peoples-Jones Stepping Up for Browns
With Beckham out, Jarvis Landry is the Browns’ most accomplished pass-catcher. However, he hasn’t looked the same this season playing through a broken rib. Rashard Higgins and Donovan Peoples-Jones have stepped up to help fill the void.
Higgins has been especially productive since Beckham went out, filling a role that many projected he would last season before injuries and a bad relationship with the former coaching staff slowed him down. Higgins has 10 catches for 172 yards the last three weeks.
“I gave everybody a clean slate,” Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski said in October. “Since the moment he has been with us, whether on Zoom calls back in the spring or out here on the practice field when we finally got together at training camp, he does his job. It is somewhat as simple as that. He does his job, and he makes sure whatever the team needs, he is going to do”
#Browns coach Kevin Stefanski on Rashard Higgins: I gave everybody a clean slate. Since moment he's been with us, he does his job, and he makes sure whatever the team needs, he's going to do
— Nate Ulrich (@ByNateUlrich) October 29, 2020
Peoples-Jones, a rookie, had his breakout performance against the Bengals in Week 7, catching 3 balls for 56 yards, which included a toe-tapping, game-winning touchdown late.
“I’m really proud of how he played,” Stefanski said of Peoples-Jones after that game. “He is ‘Mr. Reliable.’ There are going to be opportunities for him moving forward just like that.”
Browns Run-Game Surging With Nick Chubb Back
Running back Nick Chubb returned from injury last week to combine forces with Kareem Hunt and the Browns run-game once against surged. The Browns piled up 231 rushing yards in the matchup, with Chubb finishing the afternoon with 126 yards — 59 coming on a final run where he stepped out of bounds at the 1-yard line. Hunt bullied his way for 104 yards and caught three balls for 28 yards.
Baker Mayfield has struggled at times this season — with two very bad weather games not helping his cause. But the former No. 1 overall pick is happy to have the loaded backfield behind him carrying the load offensively, wearing teams down.
“I think when you are able to have that one-two punch of those guys being able to have somewhat fresh legs coming in late in the game, but you could tell that some of these runs that were going for 2-3 yards were starting to pop for longer,” Mayfield said. “It really does wear those teams down, which is why we are blessed to have those guys in our backfield.”