CLEVELAND — When wide receiver DeAndre Carter signed with the Eagles two days into training camp, he knew the odds of him making the Eagles' season-opening roster probably weren't great.
"Coming in late, it was an uphill battle,'' Carter said. "They had a stacked receiving room already. But I was blessed to have an opportunity to come here and be with this team. I'm just trying to make the most of it.''
The 25-year-old Carter understands uphill battles. The Eagles are the 5-8, 190-pounder's fifth NFL team in three years. He's been signed and released six times in those three years.
He's been on the practice squads of three teams (Oakland, New England, San Francisco) but has yet to know what it's like to make a 53-man roster.
That very well might change next week. And if it does, he will have fulfilled a promise to his late brother.
The Eagles are expected to keep six wide receivers on their season-opening roster, and Carter has played himself into serious consideration for that sixth and final spot behind Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, Mike Wallace, Mack Hollins and Shelton Gibson.
With Jeffery, Agholor and Hollins not playing Thursday night, Carter got a lot of first-half reps in the slot against the Browns' No. 1 defense in a 5-0 Eagles loss.
He finished with four catches for a team-high 73 yards, including two for 45 yards in the first half. He also returned punts for the first time in the preseason and had a 29-yard return.
He got behind Browns starting corner Terrance Mitchell early in the second quarter and hauled in a 29-yard pass from Nick Foles. He also had a 9-yard catch on a fourth-and-5 late in the fourth quarter that kept an Eagles drive alive.
"DeAndre played really well,'' Foles said. "He's played well throughout the preseason.
"For a guy who's newer to the team, he does a lot of great things. He uses his hands well, runs really good routes. I've been impressed by how he's played.''
Carter, who is averaging 17.6 yards per catch in the preseason, has had to work hard to master the Eagles' complex offense in a condensed period of time. He credited wide receivers coach Gunter Brewer and Agholor with spending extra time with him.
"It was pretty tough, but I'm a pretty football-smart guy,'' Carter said. "I've got a pretty high football IQ. I was able to relate some of the concepts to other systems I've been in. It took a little while, but I think I have a pretty good handle on it now.''
Carter was released by the 49ers in March and was without a team until the Eagles brought him in for a late-July workout and signed him.
Quitting never has been an option for him the last three years. In August 2013, he lost his 17-year-old brother, Kaylan, who collapsed during a weightlifting session before his senior year of high school and died. He had an enlarged heart.
DeAndre and Kaylan both dreamed of playing in the NFL. DeAndre was a star wide receiver at Sacramento State when he lost Kaylan. Since then, he has carried the NFL dream for both of them.
"I think about my brother every day,'' Carter said after the game Thursday. "He's the reason I get up in the morning and do what I do. He's the reason I can get cut from four teams and keep going.
"I made him a promise that we were going to make it in this league. I haven't made it yet, but am going to keep going until I do.
"Every day, I go out, whether it's a workout or practice or game. I've got to be able to walk off that field and know I made him proud that day. That's my focus every time I step on the field. And it will be for the rest of my career.''
DeAndre caught 31 touchdown passes his last two years at Sacramento State. He ran a 4.44 40 at his pro day, had a 38 1/2-inch vertical jump and bench-pressed 225 pounds 17 times. But his size was a strike against him.
He was signed by Baltimore as an undrafted free agent in 2015 but was released. He spent time on Oakland's and New England's practice squads that year, then was cut by the Patriots before the 2016 season.
Carter spent that season as a substitute teacher at a middle school in Hayward, Calif., near Oakland, before getting signed by the 49ers and spending last year on their practice squad.
"It was an experience that I'm grateful for now that I look back on it,'' he said of spending 2016 out of football. "I learned a lot about myself. I learned a lot about what it takes to make it.
"And I really enjoyed teaching. I love those kids, man.''
Carter thinks he'd like to get into teaching full-time someday. But not yet. Not now. He has a dream to chase for himself and Kaylan.
Maybe that dream finally will come true next week. Maybe Carter will make the Eagles' 53-man roster. Or maybe he won't. If he doesn't, he'll be disappointed but will just chase his dream somewhere else.
"I have a lot of confidence in myself as a football player,'' he said. "I've been cut before. I know what it's like. I've been with enough teams and systems to know what you have to do to make it. And that's what I'm trying to do.
"When it comes down to the cuts, as long as I can look myself in the mirror and know I gave it all I got, I'll be OK with that. I definitely would love, love, love to be a part of the Philadelphia Eagles, and hopefully I will. But we still have another week. I've got to keep pushing.''
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