During the Browns 30-13 loss to the Buccaneers on Friday I turned to Beanie Wells, one of our Tailgate 19 and Fifth Quarter analysts, and asked him “is it me, or does Paul Kruger look like he’s standing still on defense”? Kruger never came close to getting to the quarterback, and neither did his teammates, as the Browns were held sack-less (the Bucs racked up 8).
Getting to the quarterback is what Kruger used to do well. That was his role with the Super Bowl-champion Ravens in 2012, and it’s why the Browns dished out a five-year, $40 million deal to him in 2013. And two years ago, that skill served him and the Browns well, as Kruger totaled 11 sacks. But a lot can happen in two years (it usually does with the Browns), and on Monday, they cut their pass-rushing specialist. It was the right move.
Not because Kruger’s sack total fell from 11 in 2014 to 2.5 in 2015; former defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil had everything to do with that, dropping Kruger from his normal role of pass rusher into a role of pass coverage in one of the most bizarre coaching moves I’ve ever seen. No, this was the right move because it proves once again that the Browns are “All In” (to borrow a phrase from the most successful sports franchise in town) when it comes to the youth movement.
The Browns are going to develop Emmanuel Ogbah and Carl Nassib and Joe Schubert, all from the Draft class of 2016, as fast as possible. They’re going to grow together. This has been the plan since Sashi Brown took over. Some very talented veterans were the victims of the youth movement early on (Tashaun Gipson, Donte Whitner), others are being phased out now (Kruger). But none of these decisions moving forward will be a surprise to anyone who’s been paying attention.
The Browns will get down to 75 players on Tuesday. Next week, 53, meaning there are more familiar names to come. None will be more expensive than Kruger, who will leave town having earned almost $25 million of that $40 million deal. And while Kruger certainly wasn’t happy about the decision, criticizing the Browns on the way out for mishandling his situation, he had to know deep down inside that this is where this team was headed all along.
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