The next position for our 2016 Cleveland Browns training camp preview features the team's outside linebackers. There are eight outside linebackers on the roster heading into camp, although two of them could ultimately end up at different positions. In part 1, we will look at Paul Kruger, Emmanuel Ogbah, Nate Orchard, and Barkevious Mingo. In part 2, we'll discuss Joe Schobert, Armonty Bryant, Cam Johnson, and Jackson Jeffcoat.
1. PAUL KRUGER - STARTING OUTSIDE LINEBACKER
Height: 6-4 | Weight: 270
Age: 30 | Experience: 8 years
Note: Frustrated with the way he was used in 2015 ... Had 2.5 sacks in 2015 after career-high 11 sacks in 2014 ... Shouldn't be asked to drop as much.
When Ray Horton was first brought back to Cleveland, he was asked about Paul Kruger being upset at how the previous regime utilized him. Last season, Jim O'Neil (who somehow landed a job in San Francisco) had the terrible idea of using Kruger as more of a coverage linebacker.
A year after he'd had a career-high 11 sacks and 4 forced fumbles, Kruger registered just 2.5 sacks in 2015. His tackles also plummeted from 52 to 27 as his playing time also took a hit. He was frustrated as the season went on, and the coaching staff acknowledges that in order for Kruger to be see better results, they need someone else on the opposite side of the field who can be a threat as well. Or, as Horton put it, Kruger needs "a Robin to his Batman."
Kruger should undoubtedly be penciled in as a starter at one of the outside linebacker positions, and I think we'll see him rush the passer more often in 2016. The other starting spot should come down to a competition between Emmanuel Ogbah and Nate Orchard.
Final Roster Odds: 100%
2. EMMANUEL OGBAH - COMPETING TO BE A STARTING OUTSIDE LINEBACKER
Height: 6-4 | Weight: 275
Age: 22 | Experience: Rookie
College: Oklahoma State
Note: Taken with 1st pick of 2nd round ... Praised heavily for athleticism and work ethic ... Will be used to rush the passer.
The selection of Emmanuel Ogbah at No. 32 overall (first pick of the second round) feels like a bit of a re-do of the Nate Orchard pick from a year ago.
Ogbah is making the transition from defensive end to outside linebacker. The coaching staff oozes with excitement any time they talk about his athleticism. He's also been praised for his work ethic and taking his own initiative to ask questions so he better understands the team's defensive system and how he can improve his game.
PFF graded Ogbah as one of the top-3 pass rushers in the country. He's not as good at stopping the run, but we all know how much Ray Horton likes to utilize players who can get after the quarterback. Although Ogbah is a rookie, if I was forced to place a bet on who would start opposite Kruger, I'd go with Ogbah. In a perfect world, the Browns will have Ogbah contribute from the edge and Carl Nassib on the line in pass-rushing situations to really create some havoc for opposing coordinators.
Final Roster Odds: 100%
3. NATE ORCHARD - COMPETING TO BE A STARTING OUTSIDE LINEBACKER
Height: 6-4 | Weight: 255
Age: 23 | Experience: 2 years
Note: 2nd round pick in 2015 ... Saw the most action among team's OLBs last year ... After very slow start, had a disruptive December.
I made no secret last season with how underwhelmed I was with the season-long performance of Nate Orchard. He was one of the few rookies who was practically given the keys to a starting role, and after leading the nation in sacks during his final year of college, all he could muster as a rookie were three sacks.
With that said, I'm encouraged to see how Orchard does in his sophomore year. Even the team's veteran players had terrible defensive seasons under Jim O'Neil last year, and much of it was placed on scheme. To his credit, Orchard became more of a playmaker in the month of December, where he registered all 3 of his sacks, an interception, and began to have some more disruptive plays in general. Will that maturation, coupled with an offseason of workouts, be enough to win him a starting role? Truth be told, it doesn't really matter if Orchard starts -- chances are, we're going to see a near 50-50 split between he and Ogbah. What I'd really like to see is somebody show some improvement at stopping the run, but that's the type of progress we'll have to wait until the preseason games to start evaluating.
Final Roster Odds: 100%
4. BARKEVIOUS MINGO - LAST-CHANCE OUTSIDE LINEBACKER
Height: 6-4 | Weight: 240
Age: 25 | Experience: 4 years
Note: Former 6th overall pick ... In the final year of his contract after 5th-year option wasn't picked up ... Was hardly used in 2015.
This is Barkevious Mingo's final year to show he can cut it in the NFL, and I think he'll come through.
Back in 2014, Mingo gutted his way through the whole season with pretty much just one arm. Despite that, he was one of the team's better run defenders and took on more responsibility in coverage. The feeling was that, because he was healthy in 2015, his productivity would increase. Instead, he was fourth on the depth chart, often only seeing about a handful of snaps per game despite the team desperately needing a player who could set the edge in run defense.
Mingo had to be confused -- he came into the league as an athletic pass-rusher, was told to transition his game in 2014, did so successfully while hurt, and then was practically ignored in 2015. Now, he's re-united with defensive coordinator Ray Horton, who will help try to salvage the former first-round pick's career. Mingo's weight on the team's roster page says "240 pounds," but this offseason, reports said that he bulked up 20 pounds to about 260 pounds. Other reports say he went from 227 pounds to 251 pounds. Wherever he's at, it's more than he's been.
Horton won't be including Mingo in the mix to start, but he and the coaching staff want to see how willing the fourth-year linebacker is to being moved around to multiple spots on defense. Mingo has no choice but to accept the role, but this time, I think he'll be more motivated believing that Horton won't keep him on the bench the majority of the game.
Final Roster Odds: 75%
Today's poll asks two questions: who would you give more playing time to at the start of the year (Orchard or Ogbah), and do you think Mingo will make the team?