Friday, April 23, 2010

And the beat goes on . . .

What in the world has caused Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert to think the Browns' secondary was disaster area? So much so that they made Oregon safety T. J. Ward the club's second-round pick in the NFL draft making Florida's Joe Haden their No. 1 pick.

Could it be because the Browns intercepted only 10 passes last season? Probably. But could it be that the reason for so few picks was a pass rush that was tepid at best and putrid at worst (the plundering of Ben Roethlisberger in the second game against the Pittsburgh Steelers notwithstanding)? It all starts at the line of scrimmage, an area that has yet to be addressed.

It's nice to see the H men have secured the services of one of the hardest-hitting safeties in the draft. It's nice to see they have landed a guy who lives and breathes football. It's nice to see they selected a young man who put up Troy Polamalu-like numbers at Oregon.

But what they apparently did not see -- or if they did were willing to gamble on -- is that Ward is an injury waiting to happen. With all due respect to his toughness, Ward has a problem staying healthy.

A knee injury ended his high school career in 2004. He missed just about all of the 2006 season at Oregon with another knee injury and was absent in half of the Ducks games this past season with an ankle injury.

When healthy, he's a hell of a football player. Ohio State fans might remember Ward for his 10-tackle performance against the Buckeyes in the Rose Bowl earlier this year. There is no question that when healthy, he has the opportunity to perform in a manner reminiscent of Polamalu or Ed Reed.

But what are the odds he'll maintain his health with the Browns? That's the gamble Holmgren and Heckert are willing to take. It's also the kind of gamble an established team might be willing to take. Not a team struggling to gain at least a measure of respectability. That would be the Browns.

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