Kruger's slow exit
The new-look Cleveland Browns looked even newer Monday after the club whacked 14 names off the roster.
And they got a lot younger.
One of the victims was veteran outside linebacker Paul Kruger, who should have been whacked a few months ago when the new front office decided to purge the immediate past and jettison the likes of Donte Whitner and Karlos Dansby.
Kruger arrived in Cleveland three years ago as the savior who would help revitalize the pass rush. He sandwiched his 11-sack season two years ago between seasons of 4½ and last season’s 2½ sacks. That greased his slide out of town. No big loss.
So why did it take OTAs, minicamps, training camp and three exhibition games for the front office to reach this conclusion? The Browns cited lack of production. Well, duh. What took them so long to figure that out? Slow thinkers anonymous?
It is now obvious the getting-leakier-by-the-moment Cleveland defense will be among the youngest, perhaps the youngest, in the National Football League. In essence, it will be on-the-job training.
Unless the Browns accidentally hit the jackpot in the last draft with the likes of Carl Nassib, Emmanuel Ogbah and Joe Schobert, selected for their ability to get extremely up close and personal with opposing quarterbacks, those quarterbacks won’t need their uniforms laundered after the game.
Throw in pro sophomores Nate Orchard, Xavier Cooper and Danny Shelton, and you have the makings of a Cleveland defense that could set all kinds of negative records that could last a long time.
The club released 10 others, mostly roster fodder. They included quarterback Austin Davis, tight end E. J. Bibbs and placekicker Travis Coons. Two others, including running back Glenn Winston, were placed on injured reserve.
Why the Browns keep Winston at all is puzzling. He’s been with the club for what seems like a decade – actually, this is his third season – and can’t stay healthy. He carried the ball once last season and lost eight yards. That’s his total contribution.
In one other move, the Browns not surprisingly traded Andy Lee to Carolina for Kasey Redfern in an exchange of punters. The Browns also shipped a seventh-round pick to the Panthers and received a fourth-rounder.
The Browns will probably deny it, but Lee’s feeble attempt to tackle Tampa Bay’s Adam Humphries en route to a 73-yard return for a touchdown Friday night undoubtedly led to the change of uniforms.
Coach Hue Jackson confronted the three-time Pro Bowler about his lack of effort and apparently did not oppose the swap. Arguably the most consistent performer on the team last season, Lee goes from the sub basement to the NFL penthouse. In his one season with Cleveland, he set club records for gross average and net average.
Redfern, on the other hand, is with his third NFL team, but has never punted in a regular-season game. It is assumed, too, he will be the holder for placekicker Patrick Murray, who won that battle with Coons.
Next and final cut for the Browns, who need to pare one more man from the roster to get down to the required 75, is Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m. when they must trim the roster to 53.
Most of the remaining 22 players fighting for their professional football lives are rookies and free agents who will dominate the Cleveland lineup in the final exhibition Thursday night in Cleveland against the Chicago Bears.
With few exceptions, probably draft picks who haven’t received much playing time in the first three exhibitions and are expected to land on the 53-man roster or 10-man practice squad, the lineups against the Bears will seem somewhat foreign to those who pay full price as a vast majority of the starters sit this one out.
It’s time to get used to many new faces as the Browns launch yet another roster reconstruction.