BEREA, Ohio— Though he’s seen this before, Joe Haden was still left scratching his head.
Following the release of veteran LB Paul Kruger by the Browns, the cornerback was left a bit baffled.
"It was a shock,” Haden said. “There's one or two every year that you kind of scratch your head on. It's a dude that you thought was going to be part of the change.”
Haden might’ve been miffed by Cleveland’s call in cutting Kruger, but he understands it as well. He’s been around long enough to have experienced cuts such as this one.
“It never surprises you,” Haden said. “It's a business, it's a tough business.”
With Kruger gone, not only does Haden lose one of his best friends on the team, but he loses a fellow veteran on the defensive side of the football.
Now, Cleveland is left with just one outside linebacker with any NFL sacks: Nate Orchard, who amassed three in his rookie season.
Orchard was as upset as anyone that Kruger was released, but he too understands that it’s time for him to step up to the potential the Browns saw when drafting him in the second round a season ago.
“To see him depart, it sucks,” Orchard said. “At the end of the day that's out of my control trying to understand what they're doing upstairs. All I can do is control what I can control on the field, off the field and put forth my best effort in all that I do.”
Following the loss of Kruger, it appears as if Orchard will become the top outside linebacker in Cleveland’s young crop, but joining him will be a pair of rookies.
Second-round pick Emmanuel Ogbah and fourth-round pick Joe Schobert have each bounced around during their first training camp, but both are seemingly set to become outside linebackers on a more permanent basis.
Although he seems to have found a home, Ogbah, who was playing defensive end for most of the preseason, believes that he can do whatever is asked of him in his first NFL season.
“I think I’ll play at the right side, but I’m not sure. It’s whatever they want me to do,” Ogbah said. “I was actually still studying the plays, so it won’t be that hard of a transition to go back to outside linebacker.”
Though the inexperienced players think they can provide the spark necessary to get the defense trending in the right direction, there’s a general thought that the youth movement signals an end to a competitive 2016 season for the Browns.
If that is the league-wide thought, it certainly hasn’t permeated into the psyche of the team in Cleveland.
“The only thing we’re worried about his winning here and whatever they moves they make is about us winning,” Haden said. “With coach Hue’s leadership and everything that he’s talking about, we lost a really good player in Paul, he’s been very productive in the league, but like I said coach told, it’s all about winning, it’s all about next man up and you’ve got to be able to make plays, so the young guys gotta step up and it’s just showing that no matter who you are, it’s about winning, it’s about making plays. It’s about results.”
For Haden, the move was more of a reality check than a team-wide white flag.
It wasn't a signal, but a reminder that the NFL can often stand for “Not For Long.”
“It just shows guys you gotta be making plays,” Haden said. “It’s a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately business and if you're not making plays anybody can go."
For all of your Browns news and updates from Berea, follow Hayden Grove on Twitter: @H_Grove