Breshad Perriman’s size and speed got him a spot with the Browns when they were hit by a rash of receiver injuries in October. The elite traits that made him the No. 26 pick of the Ravens in 2015 earned him a few snaps early in his time with Cleveland and lately have opponents changing how they defend the Browns, who’ve won three of four.
But a simple and unsuccessful jet sweep against Kansas City showed new coordinator Freddie Kitchens that Perriman — 6-foot-2, 211 pounds, 4.24-second 40 time — isn’t just quick-twitch muscles.
“He was not afraid,” Kitchens said Wednesday. “He took on the tacklers on the edge. It ended up being a 2-yard play, but when he had the ball in his hands, he brought it.
“I like physical, big guys like that that can play and that seem to enjoy playing the game. When you have a guy that loves the game of football, of course, that is an advantage.”
Perriman’s playing time has increased in his seven games with the Browns, who are 5-7-1 and trying to beat the odds to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2002. He played 19 snaps Sunday in a 26-20 win over the Panthers, catching two passes for 81 yards and affecting the game in a variety of ways.
“I kind of want it to happen a little more so I can earn some respect from the guys in the league,” he said. “I don’t necessarily really think about the whole numbers thing, but really just going out there and making plays and impacting the game someway, somehow any way, whether it’s catching, blocking or getting your teammates open. Any way.”
Perriman was without a team from Sept. 1 to Sept. 18 after being cut by the Ravens and again from Sept. 22 to Oct. 13 after a short stint in Washington. The five weeks out of work went by like dog years.
“You said it wasn’t long, it felt like a whole season to me,” he said. “I was just trying to stay active as much as I can, because when I was at home and not doing much, that’s when your mind goes crazy and you just start thinking too much. So I really just tried to keep faith and keep praying and just be ready when an opportunity came.”
The Browns stopped his mind from racing and he quickly got the defensive backs chasing.
“I feel great right now,” he said. “I love the position that I’m in and I feel like last week kind of set a standard for me. Continue to when I’m out there control what I can control and make the plays that come to me and if it’s a big play, if it’s a crunch-time play, just make it. Even the small plays, try to turn those into big plays.”
Perriman got a lot of publicity for a couple of plays against the Panthers. He flew past cornerback Donte Jackson for a career-long 66-yard completion on Cleveland’s first offensive snap and caught a 15-yarder from the 2-yard line that took time off the clock late in the fourth quarter and provided precious room to punt.
His presence had an impact throughout the game. On receiver Jarvis Landry’s two inside runs — a 3-yard touchdown and 51-yard pickup — Perriman was an important decoy. He also ran deep routes that created space for underneath targets.
The speed that caused left guard Joel Bitonio to look up Perriman’s 40 time after his first practice can’t be ignored by the defense.
“It has been great for us to be able to have that great deep option to where people have to be on notice,” quarterback Baker Mayfield said. “Anytime that you have a guy that can stretch the field like that, it presents a whole other ballgame. That allows the underneath stuff to work and obviously the run game, too.”
Perriman is only with the Browns because of injuries. They had a chance to sign him after trading Josh Gordon on Sept. 17 but chose Rod Streater. Only when Rashard Higgins hurt his knee Oct. 7 against the Ravens and Derrick Willies broke his collarbone Oct. 12 in practice did Perriman get an emergency call and workout.
Rarely does a midseason pickup work out so well.
“It is not easy, and give the guys credit upstairs for that and give our coaches credit,” interim coach Gregg Williams said. “We were all on board with him getting an opportunity here. To his credit, he has come in and earned his chances. He has done a very good job.”
He has 10 catches for 188 yards in seven games. The numbers won’t make anyone forget Gordon or have the Ravens regretting the decision to cut him after the preseason, but he believes he’s come a long way.
He missed his rookie season with a knee injury and never found his way in Baltimore. In 27 games over two seasons he had 43 catches for 576 yards and three touchdowns.
“I had some drops. I own up to it,” Perriman said. “Trying to make sure that’s never a problem ever again for the rest of my career.”
“People said he dropped the ball a lot in Baltimore, but I don’t see that,” Higgins said. “I haven’t seen him drop a ball since he’s been here. In practice, either.”
General manager John Dorsey is expected to upgrade the receiving corps in the offseason, but Perriman has earned a longer look.
“We are going to need guys like him to build this thing to get it to where we want to go,” Landry said.
Perriman’s scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent after the season but said he loves the environment and would like to stay. Sharing a locker room and huddle with Mayfield is a big reason. He referred to the rookie as the “GOAT” (greatest of all time) after the game Sunday.
“Just his swag and his confidence and the way he just carries the whole team on his back. It’s crazy,” Perriman said. “No matter the situation, no matter what happened last play, he’s going to go out with the same attitude and the same mindset and I love that about him.”