PHILADELPHIA – There was a little Cleveland-on-Cleveland crime in South Philadelphia on Tuesday when fourth-year pro Tyrie Cleveland continued his march up the Eagles’ depth chart with a standout performance against the Cleveland Browns.
Cleveland has quickly ascended into a 53-man roster hopeful by becoming backup quarterback Marcus Mariota’s favorite receiver.
The 6-foot-2, 205-pound University of Florida product got the most targets of any player in Saturday’s 20-19 preseason loss at Baltimore, snaring a team-high five receptions for 68 yards.
Cleveland’s coming out party continued against the Browns when he went over the top of cornerback Lorenzo Burns to snare a Mariota fade pass for a touchdown.
On a day where Nick Sirianni demanded more energy after a lackluster Day 1 practice against the Browns, Cleveland delivered with his play and then his actions afterward. The lanky wideout fired the football in the air as the Eagles’ sideline erupted.
“They were in press coverage and I had a ‘go ball,’ so Marcus, every time we get that look, we try to make a play,” Cleveland said. “Fortunately, I was making a play for the team.”
The drill wasn’t over, though. It was a period when the Eagles were down eight and needed a TD and a two-point conversion so Cleveland went back at it, catching a quick out from Mariota to complete the mission.
“Make a play because we needed the two-point (conversion). It was situation, so we needed two points to tie it up,” said Cleveland. “Just making a play, trying not to be so high in the moment, trying to stay calm and collected.”
Cleveland remains a long shot with most projections having the Eagles keeping five WRs on the initial 53-man roster with placeholders set for stars A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith, as well as Quez Watkins, Olamide Zaccheaus and punt returner Britain Covey.
Among the rest of the WRs Cleveland probably leads the group or is at least tied with veteran Greg Ward, who has been his steady self. From there, you have Deon Cain, Johnny King, Devon Allen, Joseph Ngata, and Jadon Haselwood.
Of that group injuries have hampered Cain and Allen, King just got here, Ngata has taken a step back and Haselwood’s ceiling is likely the practice squad.
“I set a goal for myself, a Muhammed Ali quote: ‘Don’t count today, make the days count,’” said Cleveland. “So every day, I try to make the days count, getting better every day, working on my weaknesses and continue to show up and make plays.”
Along with his stellar play catching the football recently, Cleveland’s special teams acumen could be more desirable now for the organization now that Shaun Bradley was lost for the season with a torn Achilles.
“I’m very comfortable. I’m blessed and God gifted ability to play both sides – special teams and offense,” Cleveland said. “It’s a gift from above. I’m thankful to have the athleticism to play special teams and offense.”
As we head into the dog days of summer, Cleveland is making his days count and the Eagles’ decisions difficult.
“The only thing I can do is go out there and control what I can control,” Cleveland said. “Whatever they do in the front office, that’s on them. I just give myself a chance by just coming out here, playing hard, playing together.”