I wrote yesterday about the fact that the Baltimore Ravens were using rookie outside linebacker Kamalei Correa on the inside, and even putting him in the running to land a starting job there this year, given the need that they find themselves having at the spot.
Likewise, the Cleveland Browns are also getting creative with one of their draft picks, it seems, taking second-round outside linebacker Emmanuel Ogbah, who lined up there throughout the spring, and put him up along the defensive line as an end in their 3-4 base now that training camp has gotten underway.
Still, Browns head coach Hue Jackson made sure not to suggest that the move was permanent, but merely something that the team was trying out, telling reporters that “we’re going to play him at defensive end some and take a good look at him”, adding that “this time of year is evaluation time for all of our football team. Now, you can do some of that. Move guys around and see what’s the best fit for our football team to help us win”.
It should be noted that this move to explore his versatility comes after the Browns learned that defensive end Desmond Bryant, who was taking on a leadership role along the defensive line this year, would be forced to miss the 2016 season due to injury, so that situation presented an opening to add a moving piece to the equation.
Also in the equation is third-round pick Carl Nassib, who is indeed a player who is much more traditionally suited to line up as a 3-4 defensive end than would Ogbah, even based purely on their measurements and body types, as well as perceived skill sets. Nassib could find himself competing for a starting spot, particularly with Bryant having gone down.
The other starter could well be second-year player Xavier Cooper, who was a third-round pick for the Browns a year ago and who played in 14 games last year, though did not register any starts, and registered 19 tackles to go along with a sack and a half.
With Bryant going down, however, the depth beyond those players is fairly thin, so the move to get Ogbah some work along the defensive line makes sense. Jackson rejected the notion that it had anything to do with an alleged struggle that he had dropping into coverage, insisting instead that the motivation was to create more versatility on the defense.
“If he gives us something there, then it’s going to help our football team”, Jackson said. “We’re going to try anything and everything that we can to give guys opportunities that showcase their abilities and talents”.
Combined with second-year former first-round draft pick Danny Shelton at nose tackle, the Browns are looking at starting a very young defensive line, with Cooper, Nassib, and possibly Ogbah serving as some of the primary players in the mix. They also had one of the worst run defenses in the league last year, so it’s not as though turning to the youth is throwing the baby out with the bath water.