Reporting Daryl Ruiter
BEREA (92.3 The Fan) - Safety David Sims is having the kind of training camp that helps a bubble player make a team.
A long shot to make the team at the start of camp, Sims is making quite the impression despite being listed with the 3rd string defense on the depth chart.
He’s consistently getting reps with the second team defense and taking advantage of the opportunity.
Sims came away with a pair of interceptions in Monday’s practice. First, he picked off Brandon Weeden, who was looking for Josh Gordon on a crossing route over the middle, and then swiped a pick-6 from Seneca Wallace in 7 on 7 drills.
He also broke up a pass in the end zone to thwart a 2-minute drill.
“It doesn’t seem to find me, I seem to find the ball,” Sims said. “I just try to do what I need to do to make plays, because I know my situation.
“I’m just trying to improve everyday, show the coaches that I can play and pretty much work on my craft and do everything I need to do to make the plays in practice so I can take it to the game.
Sims has 2 picks in the preseason as well – tops in the AFC and tied for the lead in the NFL.
Sims’ interception against the Lions secured the Browns’ 19-17 win. At Green Bay, he came away with a 38-yard pick-6 in the 35-10 blowout.
“He’s flashed with the coaches here,” coach Pat Shurmur said. “He’s challenging, he’s physical and he’s made really a huge amount of progress. I’m hopeful that it will continue here in the next 2 preseason games because that’s the kind of thing you want to see for a guy to make the team.
“He’s got to flash and he’s got to make plays and to his credit he’s done that.”
Sims is aware that he’ll need to keep it up over the next 2.5 weeks if he’s to make the final cut in Cleveland.
“Just keep doing what I’ve been doing,” Sims said. “Just making plays, know what I’m supposed to do out there on the field. No MAs or anything like that, and just stay healthy.”
After being signed as an undrafted free agent, Sims was cut by the NY Giants prior to last season. He signed with Tampa Bay in November but was cut within the week before the Browns picked him up and added him to the practice squad.
Not making the Giants and sitting out the season ate away at him last year.
“Yeah, it hurt me because I know I’m good enough to play, and they had me kind of questioning my ability to play for a little bit,” Sims said. “Just because I got cut and I know I was doing a good job when I did get in. So that kind of put a heartache on me a little bit, but I came. When I got cut I still worked out and trained so if I got a call, I’d be ready.”
Should Sims continue to flash, he stands a very good chance of making the team if Usama Young doesn’t return soon. Young has been out since Aug. 2 due to a hamstring injury.
Developing Thad: Fourth string quarterback Thaddeus Lewis, who has 5 of 8 passes for 90 yards this preseason, remains a project for Shurmur and the Browns.
Shurmur said Monday that he sees a lot in Lewis and has been impressed with how he’s handled limited practice reps as well as playing time this preseason.
“I think there’s value to that,” Shurmur said. “There’s something to Thad that I think is worth developing.”
Should Shurmur decide to keep Lewis on the final 53, it could mean that either Seneca Wallace or Colt McCoy would have to go since keeping 4 active quarterbacks is unconventional.
“There’s no telling what’s going to happen at this point,” Shurmur said. “We’ve got a few days left here, close to 20 I think it is, before we have to make the final decision.”
The Browns claimed Lewis off of waivers last September when the Rams tried to get him on their practice squad.
Lewis is eligible for the practice squad this year, however, he would have to clear waivers first and as with any practice squad player would still be free to sign an NFL contract anywhere during the season.
The question is – is Shurmur willing to take those 2 risks?
Still A Chance: Receiver Carlton Mitchell returned to practice Monday and remains alive for the final receiver position on the roster.
“Oh I think so,” Shurmur said. “He’ll get a chance to play a lot and I want him to show up so we sit back and say ‘Wow this guy’s made great progress and we’ve got to consider him being a part of this team.”
Mitchell, who has been sidelined with various leg injuries for the vast majority of camp, made some nice catches on the sidelines during individual and 1 on 1 work Monday morning.
Birthday Boy: Rookie linebacker James-Michael Johnson celebrates his 23rd birthday Monday.
Since being drafted by the Browns, Johnson has received a crash course on growing up NFL style but handled it well.
“It’s going well for me,” Johnson said. “[I'm] just trying to get better everyday. I think I’m doing a good job of that. I can always get better though. I just feel like I’m trying to focus more on little things. Before, I was trying to focus on the big picture. It’s more like little things that will help me develop faster.”
JMJ has impressed so much in camp that he could end up a starter on the strong side in place of Scott Fujita who is suspended for the first 3 games.
“Honestly all I’m thinking about is coming out tomorrow and practicing better than I did today,” Johnson said. “So that’s in the future. Tomorrow’s not promised so I’m just trying to just keep it rolling, focus on the next day.
“If they need me to do that, yeah I can do that. I feel like you’ve got to have confidence.”
Injuries: Running back Chris Ogbonnaya left midway through practice after sustaining an apparent ankle injury. Ogbonnaya appeared to have his leg rolled up on by D’Qwell Jackson who was run into by Kaluka Maiava during team drills. He tried to return before walking off with a trainer.
A total of 12 players missed Monday’s practice.
CB Dimitri Patterson (right ankle), DT John Hughes (undisclosed), S Ray Ventrone (right hamstring), S Usama Young (reported hamstring), RB Trent Richardson (left knee scope), LB Chris Gocong (torn right Achilles tendon), DT Scott Paxson (right knee), OL Oniel Cousins (general soreness), DT Phil Taylor (pectoral surgery), LB Scott Fujita (general soreness), LB Emmanuel Acho (general soreness) and DE Juqua Parker (undisclosed) did not practice.
Up Next: The Browns will practice Tuesday morning at 8:45 a.m. The final practice of camp open to the public will take place Wednesday morning.