The Paul Kruger release has everything to do with the youth movement
Though the Cleveland Browns will claim that the release of Paul Kruger was a result of poor performance, it is clear that it reflects the youth movement.
Linebacker Paul Kruger is no longer a member of the Cleveland Browns. The transaction was made official Monday morning, a single cut among many made to trim the roster to 75.
Though this may have come as a surprise to many Browns fans, head coach Hue Jackson made it very clear that the move was solely based on Kruger’s performance on the field.
While Jackson may publicly say the move was strictly based on performance, the team did not want to indicate any sort of prejudice to players based on their age. Therefore, regardless of Kruger’s experience, he didn’t do enough to earn a roster spot.
But realistically, when considering the direct consequences of the transaction, alternate conclusions surface. In other words, look at who benefits from Kruger’s release.
Rookie after rookie after rookie.
Formerly, Kruger held a starting position among the outside linebackers according to a depth chart released prior to the third preseason game. In the updated depth chart just released, rookie Emmanuel Ogbah now fills this critical pass rushing role.
Sure, the second-round draft pick has impressed in preseason and deserves the promotion, but it would be naive reasoning to claim that the coaching staff didn’t take into consideration the long-term impacts of penciling Ogbah into the role, instead of a player with fewer years left in Kruger.
Behind Ogbah is young linebacker Cam Johnson, who has had the best training camp and preseason of his career while in Cleveland. He, like the majority of Cleveland’s defense, is younger than 30. With Kruger’s absence, the former Indianapolis Colt will see a significant rise in his playing time.
Also benefiting from the release is every other defender on Cleveland’s front seven whose strength is pass rushing. This includes Nate Orchard, Carl Nassib and Joe Schobert. With the team’s leading pass rusher gone, the Browns don’t have to worry about returning Kruger to past form. Now, they are able to concern themselves with developing young pass rushers with a lot of upside. This gives them the opportunity they need to jump-start their NFL careers and thrive in Cleveland. It is certainly no coincidence that these young players now have the ability to do just that.
Other moves also indicate the fact that Cleveland’s coaching staff is clearly favoring younger players. The Andy Lee trade and the release of defensive lineman Nick Hayden signals to fans that the roster needs to be completely rebooted with young players who can develop into a contending core in years to come. Though many don’t realize, Kruger was a victim of this strategy the coaching staff is implementing, despite how poorly he may have performed.
Kruger may have contributed to the decision, or made it easier to make due to his recent struggles. But he wouldn’t have been cut under different circumstances, such as under a different coaching staff who didn’t value youth as much, or in a situation other than an all out rebuilding process. This move was due to the youth around Kruger, the young players whom he stood in the way of.
This isn’t to say that taking age into consideration when cuts are made is wrong. In fact, it is logical that the Browns made this move, since it is beneficial to have rookies gain experience and grow immediately together. Plus, it appears that the Browns aren’t exactly approaching 2016 with the mindset that they are Super Bowl contenders.
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But it is important that Browns fans do not pretend that the current state of the organization is anything short of a full rebuilding process. This involves youth, and lots of it, so players like Kruger end up getting the short end of the stick.