Like the Steelers, the Cleveland Browns were in the market for a pass rusher when the N.F.L. Draft rolled around this past April. The Browns must take on three Pro Bowl-caliber quarterbacks six times per season, so pressuring the opposing signal-callers is an absolute must for a team like Cleveland. Thus, it certainly made complete and total sense why they selected the raw but talented Barkevious Mingo with the sixth overall pick in the first round.
The former Bayou Bengal however was not the only pass rusher who Cleveland’s brass took a long look at this past offseason though. In fact, the Browns apparently did a large amount of homework on Jarvis Jones as well before they elected to go in Mingo’s direction.
In a recent article on Cleveland’s ESPN.com radio site, Jones stated that the Browns were interested in him this past offseason. However, Pittsburgh’s first round pick mentioned how his checkered medical history and his poor performance at his pro day probably caused him to fall all the way to Pittsburgh at number 17 overall.
I am sure that the Browns were not the only team that took Jones off of their draft boards for those reasons. Yet Cleveland’s decision to select another pass-rusher instead of Jones, who subsequently was selected by the Browns’ biggest rival, will probably measure these two players against each other for the duration of their careers as Tony Grossi alluded to in his article.
Like it or not readers, but these former SEC pass rushers will be topics of constant debate over the coming years between AFC North fans and draftniks alike. If both succeed, then both franchises will be hailed for making the right decision and will reap the benefits.
Cleveland’s brass will be vindicated in the regard that they saw “their guy” at number six overall and handed defensive coordinator Ray Horton one of the most athletically gifted pass-rushers to come from the college ranks since Aldon Smith.
If Jones pans out, Pittsburgh’s front office will be hailed for their patience and savvy for picking a solid scheme-fit player to bolster their anemic pass rush. With James Harrison out of town, LaMarr Woodley on the down-side of his career, and Jason Worilds in a contract season in 2013, the selection of Jones would be a “right place at the right time” move for the franchise if the former Bulldog can succeed.
In the event that both pass-rushers are unable to live up to their pre-draft hype, both teams will be forced to go back to the drawing board to find ways to create pocket collapse. Cleveland must hope that Paul Kruger will play up to his huge contract, and Pittsburgh will be forced to rely on untested and underperforming youngsters like Adrian Robinson and Chris Carter.
If only one of the recently drafted pass rushers succeeds and one fails however, this draft could be looked at as either the maintenance of the “status quo” when it comes to the “Pittsburgh vs. Cleveland rivalry or the beginning of a paradigm shift in the “Turnpike rivalry between both of these rebuilding franchises.
If Mingo bursts on the scene while Jones falters, then the Browns’ defense and pass-rush will have an added element of speed to counter the Pro Bowl-caliber signal-callers within their division. Barkevious could make life an utter disaster for Pittsburgh’s still gelling offensive line, and Cleveland’s already improving defense would have the chance to turn the proverbial “corner” as a unit.
If Jones however becomes the Steelers’ next great outside linebacker and Mingo busts, then the moves will be viewed as another “same story, different chapter” event in recent memory. Cleveland (as well as Miami if Dion Jordan flames out too) will kick themselves for passing on one of college football’s most productive, if not the most productive, pass-rushers over the last two years. Although Jones’ red-flags (injury and poor workout) were legitimate concerns, the Browns will only be able to wonder “what if?” when Jones is relentlessly attacking Brandon Weeden and Mingo goes the way of Vernon Gholston.
I know that I will be monitoring the progress of both Jones and Mingo over the coming seasons. Both have the talent and raw ability to develop into integral pieces in both of their team’s defensive schemes. I cannot wait to see where each of these players are five years from now, and I for one hope that Jones will prove all of his naysayers wrong.
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