The sky may not be falling, but it’s looking a little cloudy in Berea as the Cleveland Browns appear to have some problems. The first is the defense, but the trade of Barkevious Mingo got me thinking about all the draft picks the Browns have wasted over the years and the what-ifs, but it’s a wasted effort.
Who cares if Mingo has some success with another organization when he wasn’t doing it for the Browns? There’s two reasons you noticed him this preseason: 1) he did something stupid, or 2) he was playing at a different position.
It’s not like the Browns traded the prime of Lawrence Taylor for the draft rights to Ryan Leaf knowing the outcome of both careers, but felt like taking a risk. And labeling Mingo a 1st rounder is factual, but has nothing to do with his value, so an argument based on trading a former first-round pick for a fifth-round pick is fundamentally stupid. Reality check, the Browns traded a former first-round pick they were most likely going to cut for a fifth-round pick, which is what the front office currently covets. Picks, picks and more picks.
The Mingo trade also got me thinking, it doesn’t matter what mistakes were made in past drafts.
What matters now is how the Browns (Hue Jackson and his staff) develop the 14 picks they just selected, and what they do next year. This year is an audition year. The coaches didn’t know what they would have in most of their players, the front office had never run a draft and hadn’t even gotten their scouts in place. Heck, they didn’t know how to look for something they didn’t know they were looking for. They correlated data compiled from combines current and past, averaged them out (so on and so forth) and then balanced that with film, interviews and more. Then, from all that data, they selected 14 players that stood out, either in the stats or in measurables. Now they’ll know what to expect, have their scouts in place and know what areas of the team they need to improve most.
Now, more about that defense
Ray Horton inherits a group that couldn’t stop the run (ranked 30th in the league last year), stop opponents from scoring (ranked 29th at 23.7), lost Desmond Bryant to injury, released Karlos Dansby and Donte Whimper (until he actually hits someone, I refuse to call him Hitner) and lost his other starting safety to free agency in Tashaun Gipson. Horton was then tasked with the same duality as Kirby Wilson, Jackson and Pep Hamilton have with the offense, “do the best with what you got, while developing the youth, and oh, yeah! I almost forgot, we need to win games, too. So don’t suck.” It’s like Bill Lumbergh just stopped by Horton’s office to talk about Saturday.
Robert Nunn has helped develop some of the rookies like Carl Nassib and Emmanuel Ogbah along the defensive line, but sophomore Danny Shelton has failed to standout SO FAR in the PRESEASON. Keywords in caps. It’s only preseason, but Shelton does not look like a starter, let alone a three-down lineman. I’d like to hope he’s saving “it” for the regular season, but I’m not sure he had “it” to begin with.
Meanwhile, the other draft picks are facing a steep learning curve and some may not make the cut or have to develop while playing special teams. Personally, I’d keep all 14 rookies and let some of the guys go that were part of the 3–13 Browns, but there are more factors that come in to play and time will tell.
Joe Haden is coming back from an injury plagued season and they’re trying out Jamar Taylor as a starter after letting Justin Gilbert take reps there during most of training camp. The team appeared to be set at outside linebacker with Nate Orchard and Paul Kruger, but Horton may be tinkering with a four-man front after seeing some success against the run, and the team releasing Kruger on Monday.
The pass-rush needs improvement, but honestly other than Haden on defense, who else truly stands out as a “must start” player? Not one player on this defense can truly be classified as dominant at this point in their careers. If Ogbah, Nassib, Orchard or someone else can get to the quarterback, then the team should go with the front that allows them to do that, instead of sticking with tradition with Horton’s 3-4 defense.
The defense was my greatest fear all offseason
It’s not because of Horton, but what Horton has at his disposal. Jackson has proven he can develop talented players or at least find a role for them. He did wonders for Jason Campbell and Terrelle Pryor at quarterback in Oakland, and more recently with Andy Dalton and A.J. McCarron in Cincinnati.
I haven’t seen much of that yet out of Horton and he seemed to favor veterans, or Jim Leonhard-type players that are basically on-field coordinators, to me last time he was here. Let’s hope he can quickly get some production out of Ogbah, Nassib, Xavier Cooper and Orchard, which will then hopefully make the back end of the defense look that much better with more pressure up front. Oh, and if he can get Shelton going, Christian Kirksey may turn into a playmaker behind him. But honestly at this point, who really knows?
No pressure, no diamonds
With all the good Hue previously did with said quarterbacks, even I can’t fully understand his desire to simultaneously develop a center while trying to resurrect a quarterback. Cameron Erving may develop into a fine NFL center, but I’d rather have a currently good, preferably not learning-the-position-at-the-NFL-level, center that can give my quarterback time to throw than hope a second-year offensive lineman that struggled everywhere on the line can quickly develop without having shown any visible signs of it.
Because…Griffin has talent, but has a history of injuries, and there is an obvious impact on quarterbacks who are constantly getting hit, a la David Carr. Then Griffin was injured, played bad, got injured, didn’t play well and then well, didn’t play. He’s probably going to be a little rusty, and honestly should be treated like a rookie coming back from injury. He played elite, got injured and never came close to that player again. Let him literally and figuratively get his legs underneath him and see what he can do for a season. We know what Josh McCown is, and while Cody Kessler can find the end zone he’s going to need time to develop. And that’s another why not. Why not let Jackson try to develop him?
My point in all of this, time takes time, and that is the one thing no coach or front office exec has had or deserved until now.