Friday, April 26, 2013

No, not again

Murphy’s Law paid another visit to the Browns Thursday night.

Yep, that grand old resident of Loserville knocked on the Browns’ door in the first round of the National Football League college draft and Joe Banner & Co. couldn’t resist. They answered.

Grabbed outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo to further enhance their goal of making life miserable for NFL quarterbacks this season.

As if they didn’t have enough pass rushers already in free agents Paul Kruger, Desmond Bryant and Quentin Groves. Add converted defensive end Jabaal Sheard to that corps and now you have a gang of quarterback abusers.

It’s official. The club now has a logjam at situational edge pass rushers. Only problem is how to get them all on the field at the same time.

Coach Rob Chudzinski believes he has the answer: “Adding (Mingo) in the mix gives us another pass rusher and a solid rotation. . . .  You can’t have enough pass rushers and keeping these guys fresh is the key.”

They key word here is rotation. The Browns drafted a player with their first-round pick who will be in a rotation. And they plunked down $44 million for Kruger, who will be in a rotation. Talk about not getting bang for your buck.

Beefing up the pass rush is all well and good, but the last time I looked, there are other facets of defense that need to be addressed. Like stopping the run.

Mingo is not a run stopper. Neither are Kruger or Groves. They are all situational players. Guys who do one thing well. But that’s it.

Sheard, on the other hand, is the unknown quantity. We don’t know whether he can make the successful transition to a new position.

I have a problem – and so should Browns coaches – with players who are one-dimensional. When drafting a defensive player as high as No. 6, you should look for someone who can play three downs.

Mingo is not a three-down player. He is a quick-twitch, high motor guy who does only one thing well. At No. 6, that’s not enough. Not nearly enough.

New defensive coordinator Ray Horton, who apparently lobbied a lot harder for his side of the ball in the first round than did offensive coordinator Norv Turner, is a pressure guy.

Banner made it absolutely clear, too, in the run-up to the lottery. The Browns were going to make harassment of quarterbacks a priority. Give him credit, albeit grudgingly. He held true to that promise with the selection of the newest candidate for the Browns’ Name Hall of Fame. (Fair Hooker, Jubilee Dunbar, Thane Gash, Ben Gay, Earthwind Moreland, Syndric Steptoe and Cleveland Pittsburgh Crosby are already in.)

Only problem with that is Banner lost sight of the fact the Browns needed more immediate help on offense. The defense didn’t play that badly last season. The offense was far more inconsistent.

Banner, a long-time advocate of trench warfare, had the opportunity to bulk up his offensive line at No 6. Instead of locking in on guards Chance Warmack or Jonathan Cooper, guys who never leave the field, he opted for one who probably will never be a three-down performer.

The Browns have a screaming need for guards. They have 60% of what could be an outstanding offensive line and had a chance to substantially elevate that percentage. Instead, Banner fell in love with Mingo’s athleticism. Unfortunately, Mingo is a better athlete than he is a football player.

Jarvis Jones, the University of Georgia linebacker taken by the Pittsburgh Steelers (who know how to draft) with the 17th pick, is a football player. He is a playmaker with the stats to back it up.

Horton’s biggest challenge now will be getting all these duplicate position players enough playing time. They will be, essentially, part-time performers.

I realize situational substitution is still the rage among NFL defensive coordinators, but this is getting ridiculous. These guys are going to be bumping into each other as they trot on and off the field.

Mingo’s selection came with mixed reviews.

“I love this pick,” gushed ESPN’s Jon Gruden.

Pete Prisco of CBS Sports: “Mingo has raw ability, but I just didn’t see enough from him last season. I wanted more. And do the Browns have a need there?” How loudly can you say NO? Grade: C-

Sports Illustrated: “Mingo is seen as a great athletic talent, but he’s a project more prized for his upside. However he has the potential to be a devastating pass rusher at the next level. A curious selection, though, for a team that fielded a fairly stout defense in 2012 and is still littered with issues at each level on offense.” Grade: 8.10

SB Nation: “Before free agency, a pick like Mingo would have been a slam dunk A+ for the Browns. But after giving Paul Kruger a sizable contract in free agency and having Jabaal Sheard, there are only so many snaps to go around. . . . The Browns will have to find a way to get enough plays for Mingo, Kruger and Sheard.” Grade: B “A really aggressive decision by Cleveland to . . . take Mingo higher than a lot of people had him pegged. The Browns may not be able to play him three downs from the get-go, but his sack totals ought to easily surpass what he did at LSU (4½) in 2012.” Grade: B+

And this harsh assessment from the Web site Walter Football: “I guess 2012 tape doesn’t matter for the Browns. Barkevious Mingo was awful this past season and flat-out quit in some games. (He) doesn’t even fill a real need unless Jabaal Sheard is dealt, which is confusing in itself because Sheard was one of the top defenders for the Browns last year.” Grade: C-

Right now, Mingo and Sheard are projects, the latter because of the position switch. Mingo will not be able to step right in and be a valuable contributor. Someone like cornerback Dee Milliner would have made more sense. At least he is a three-down player.

The New York Jets, who picked up Milliner three picks after Cleveland passed on him, should send the Browns a note of thanks for allowing them to select Darrelle Revis’ successor in their secondary.

Of course there are still six more rounds to go and anything can happen. Let’s see if Banner and his minions can recover from their first-round misfire in the next couple of days.

For right now, though, the best grade I can give the Mingo selection is a C. And that’s being generous.

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