Owl: Goodbye Defensive Line, Hello Reuben!

The mysterious Owl offers his thoughts on the Browns deal of Ebenezer Ekuban and Michael Myers for RB Reuben Droughns. From his vantage point close to the team, the Owl imagines Romeo Crennel's reaction after two more defensive linemen pack their bags and head to Denver...

I could just about hear Romeo Crennel now. He walks down the hall, knocks on Phil Savage's door and says:

"Listen, Phil. I know you're the general manager and I'm just the head coach, and I know the agreement is you pick the players and all that, but don't you think we're sorta running out of defensive linemen in a hurry?

"I mean, look at it. You traded Gerard Warren for a fourth-round pick and you whacked Courtney Brown because he might have been injured lifting his $8 million this season, tripped over it and blown out a knee maybe. I don't know, but, yeah, he would have been injured somehow.

"And now you ship Ebenezer Ekuban and Michael Myers to the Broncos for a running back who until last year was no better than Travis Prentice. You weren't here in 2000. I was. Prentice sucked. The whole team did."

Savage smiles and says:

"Romeo, Romeo. We need a running back, Romeo. A real running back, and this guy Reuben Droughns rushed for 1,240 yards last year and he didn't really get going until the fifth game.

"He's a little lighter than what we were looking for. In fact, he's a lot lighter. I'll give you that. He weighs 207 pounds and we were hoping to get a guy weighing around 225 or 230 because the light guys don't run so well here in December. But this guy can scoot.

"And who's to say we can't still get a bigger back? We still have a couple linemen we can trade. Kenard Lang, Alvin McKinley…Somebody might want one of those guys."

So Crennel walks back to his own office, trying to figure out how he's going to make a 3-4 defense work with only a handful of players still left to play the 3 part.

And though it is true the Browns are stripping the defensive line - four linemen going from one team to another might be unprecedented - the fact is the Browns' defensive line has been underachieving for years, so why not replace the underachievers with achievers, or even overachievers from the middle rounds of the draft? In a 3-4, the linebackers make the defense work.

The only one of the group now playing for the Broncos, or soon to be once the Droughns trade is completed, that did anything worthwhile last season was Ekuban until Warren woke up for the last five games. I still believe Warren will play well in Denver. I am not changing my stance on that, but from Savage's perspective, one would have to say, 'What have we really lost?'

Ekuban doe not fit the 3-4 defense because he is too light to play on the line and not quick enough to convert to linebacker. Myers was a journeyman when the Browns got him and he'll always be a journeyman.

My question is about Droughns. Did he suddenly become a 1,000-yard rusher after three seasons of rushing for a career-high 72 yards, or is he a product of success in Denver?

Tatum Bell will be the Broncos' starting running back in 2005, barring injury. The safe bet is he will rush for 1,000 yards and Jake Plummer will be sacked fewer than 25 times.

With the attention Savage gave the offensive line early in free agency, holes should be bigger for the backs and protection should be better for Trent Dilfer.

My feathered brethren in Denver say Droughns is a great guy who will walk into the locker room with a smile on his face, challenge Lee Suggs one-on-one for the starting job and accept the results. He does not have a past that he'd rather hide.

In other words, Droughns is not William Green, whose sulking last year was more irritating than his problem with substance abuse the year before. The Browns were willing to forgive him for the latter. So were the fans and the media. But when he didn't give effort last year, it was time to move on.

From here, the Droughns trade looks like a move with no downside for the Browns. We certainly assume Savage is convinced Droughns is the real deal.

Now the Browns do not have to target a running back with the third pick in the draft. They could take a receiver - Braylon Edwards if he is there - or one of the top cornerbacks.

I would not be surprised if Savage ends up picking one of the quarterbacks, either Alex Smith or Aaron Rogers. The moves he has made so far have taken the Browns out of desperation mode.


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