July 24, 2016

Mostly cloudy

Roster will be trimmed today


Staff Writer

Travis Wilson knew this was a make-or-break preseason for him.

He started strong in practice, caught three passes for 58 yards in the opener and took the lead in the battle for the third receiver spot when chief rival Kevin Kasper couldn’t stay healthy.

Then the Travis Wilson that has frustrated coaches and fans for two-plus years reappeared. In two starts in place of the injured Braylon Edwards, Wilson put up a pair of zeros in the box score. Suddenly he was looking in from the outside of the bubble.

In his last chance to make it, or break, he caught six passes for 57 yards Thursday night. But in typical Wilson fashion, he lost a deep pass in the lights and dropped it.

So Wilson entered the weekend waiting to learn his fate as final roster cuts must be made today.

“It’s up in the coaches’ hands,” Wilson said Thursday night following a 16-10 loss to the Bears. “Hopefully I’ve done enough so they can believe me.”

Wilson, a third-round draft choice, has just two catches in two seasons. Was the big night enough to win him a job?

“I can only hope,” he said. “I’ve seen crazier things in this business in my couple years I’ve been around.”

The Browns must make 22 roster moves by this afternoon at 4. General manager Phil Savage is scheduled to meet with the media at 11 a.m., so the lucky and unlucky won’t have to wait long.

Receivers Steve Sanders and Paul Hubbard and safety Travis Key also have uncertain futures. They’re not alone — about 15 players could fill the final20five roster spots — but they provide a glimpse into life on the bubble.

Sanders, a 6-foot-3 Cleveland native, had 10 catches for 95 yards in the preseason and made an impression in his limited time with the first team. But he was undrafted in 2007 and is eligible to return to the practice squad.

“I played my hardest and I tried my best,” Sanders said. “I’m not worried about what happens because I have no control over it.

“When I say I can’t control it, I do pray about it and focus on all I can do. You can rack your brain thinking about how other people are thinking, so I don’t let myself do it.”

Hubbard was a sixth-round pick in April. He had five catches for 68 yards, including an acrobatic 44-yarder versus the Jets, but dropped an easy touchdown Thursday that cost the Browns a late lead.

“It seems like I catch all of them, then when we get to the end zone and it’s crunch time I can’t kick it into gear,” he said. “I don’t know what the problem is, but I need to hurry up and solve it.”

Hubbard was a walk-on early at Wisconsin and was heralded for his track exploits. He’s 6-2, 225 pounds and has a lot of potential. If he doesn’t make the cut, the Browns would hope he makes it through waivers so they can put him on the practice squad.

“I try not to think about that stuff,” he said. “I try to pay attention to what I’m supposed to do on the field and let everything else happen.

“I’ve done everything I’m supposed to, except catch the ball in the end zone.”

Key probably has the longest shot of making the team, as the 5-10 rookie sits behind four veteran safeties on the depth chart and the Browns will likely keep four. He was also a late arrival, signing Aug. 10.

But Key didn’t go quietly. He had an interception, a pass defensed and five tackles versus the Bears. He also had a sack that was erased when the Browns accepted a penalty on Chicago.

“He showed up coming up to make some tackles,” coach Romeo Crennel said. “He saw an opportunity and tried to take advantage of it.”

If Key doesn’t wind up on the 53-man roster, he could stick on the practice squad.

“I just pray that throughout these past few weeks and these past few games I did enough to get a chance to stick around for a while,” he said. “I’m a firm believer everything happens for a reason. If I don’t have an opportunity here, hopefully I’ll have an opportunity somewhere else.”

He and the rest of the hopefuls will know soon enough.

“Saturday is the day the Grim Reaper makes a trip to Berea,” Key said.

Petrak may be reached at spetrak@chroniclet.com or 440-329-7136.