The Visitors: Number 15

It's no mystery that Haloti Ngata is a player who intrigues the Cleveland Browns. The surprise is that the team considers him a player who could contribute at defensive end as well as in the middle of the line. Here's the data sheet on the Oregon standout...


(15 OF 32)
NAME Haloti Ngata
POSITION Defensive Tackle
HEIGHT 6' 5"
#1 @ Defensive Tackle
#8 Overall
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Visited Berea
Baltimore Ravens (visited, 4/17)
Buffalo Bills (visited, 4/18)
New York Jets (visited, 4/20)
San Francisco 49ers (visited)

Think about it: It is a cold winter day in Cleveland Browns Stadium. Snow falls lazily through the air. On the field, Orpheus Roye, Ted Washington, and Haloti Ngata are facing down an over-matched offensive line. Willie McGinest, Chaun Thompson, Andra Davis, and (fill in the blank) lurk behind them, ready to race into the backfield. But the offensive line can't worry about those linebackers right now - first they have to contend with the half-ton of defensive linemen ready to bear down on them as soon as the ball is snapped. Three quality players, all over three hundred pounds, are ready fall all over the offensive line like a brick wall, unleashing the linebackers to roam freely and terrorize whoever is unlucky enough to wind up with the football.

Nervously, the opposing quarterback looks out over the mass of humanity ready to charge at him, and snaps the ball...

That was more-or-less the picture painted by Browns GM Phil Savage about a week ago during a rare off-season press conference as he speculated that Oregon DT Haloti Ngata wouldn't be limited to rotating with 38-year-old behemoth Ted Washington if he became a Cleveland Brown on April 29th. Ngata could play at defensive end as well, and give the Browns a massive blockade which would give opponents fits in short-yardage and goal line situations.

That dream won't be achieved easily: Ngata is a highly rated player who would have to get past the Buffalo Bills, Arizona Cardinals, and St. Louis Rams to fall into the Browns clutches. Any one of those teams could block Ngata from Cleveland, but the way the draft falls this year, it's just possible that Ngata could slip by. The Bills like Brodrick Bunkley, the Cardinals need a quarterback, and the Rams could use some help in the defensive backfield. If the draft falls that way, Ngata could be a Brown.

But the Browns wouldn't just be getting a big guy with Haloti Ngata. They would be getting a big athlete, a player who is able to drive upfield and occupy multiple blockers (the very essence of a lineman's job in the 3-4). Once Ngata gets moving (as once can sense from the photo attached to this article) he is very difficult to stop. Trying to stop a 330-pound lineman who gathers a big head of steam is enough to worry any offensive tackle.

Despite his potential, a spot shouldn't be automatically reserved for Ngata on a chartered plane to Hawaii next February. He needs to continue to refine his hand technique to be successful at the NFL level, and will need to improve his conditioning a bit so that he doesn't tire during the course of a game. The Browns scheme of rotating linemen should help with the late game struggles he suffered at Oregon.

Haloti Ngata is a player who could conceivably man the nose tackle spot for the Browns into the 20-teens. In a division built on the run, and with a parade of big punishing runners to contend with, Haloti Ngata could put the Browns in a position to be a defensive challenge for opponents for years to come. For a town that has grimaced its way through a succession of forgettable defensive and nose tackles since 1999, Haloti Ngata couldn't arrive soon enough. 



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