My Thoughts on Sweat, Shugarts and the Cleveland Browns
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — It wasn’t surprising to see a pair of Ohio State’s undrafted rookies find new homes in the same state as their old one.
There is an obvious allure to signing Buckeyes to professional contracts here in the Buckeye State, especially if one of those guys turns out to be a pretty good pro. It has worked out nicely for former OSU kicker Mike Nugent in Cincinnati, and typically it has been the Bengals, not the Browns, who are willing to take a flyer on a former Buckeye.
Certainly the Browns have their history with Ohio State players, including two of the greatest ever—Lou Groza and Paul Warfield. As of late, they have tended to shy away from going after OSU guys like Troy Smith or Ted Ginn Jr.
They did draft receiver Brian Robiskie in the second round of the 2009 NFL Draft, but we all know how that turned out. Many thought the Browns might go after Mike Adams as a solution to their problems at right tackle, but they decided on Cal’s Mitchell Schwartz in the second round instead.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Adams fell to Pittsburgh 19 picks later, but Cleveland did decide to pursue Adams’ longtime teammate, friend and fellow offensive tackle, J.B. Shugarts.
The compliment to Adams on the right side of Ohio State’s offensive line for the past three seasons, Shugarts went undrafted over the weekend. It didn’t take long for him to find a new home, as both he and former OSU linebacker Andrew Sweat signed undrafted free agent contracts with the Browns.
That got me thinking.
About J.B. Shugarts…
1.There has been a lot of talk about whether Shugarts has a chance to make it in the pros. My first inclination is no. That doesn’t mean it can’t happen, but it’s hard for me to think Shugarts will suddenly correct a lot of the mistakes that plagued him at Ohio State.
2. Don’t get me wrong, Shugarts had a pretty good career with the Buckeyes. A lot of fans will only remember him for the false starts, but Shugarts gave Ohio State three pretty good years at right tackle.
3. He had some issues in pass protection, but he also played through a lot of pain and stayed out of trouble, for the most part. Especially considering his close relationship with Adams.
4. Unlike Adams, the problem with Shugarts is that he never really progressed a lot during his college career. Many of the issues he had with false starts, footwork and balance during his sophomore year were still major issues for Shugarts as a senior.
5. Some of that has to be on coaching. Look, I liked Jim Bollman as much as the next guy, but the fact remains that he clearly didn’t do a great job getting these guys NFL-ready. This was the biggest offensive line haul in recent OSU history, and only one of the ‘Block O’ guys was even drafted.
6. Shugarts should have a chance to make the team. The Browns obviously drafted Schwartz with the intentions of making him their starting right tackle. That makes Oniel Cousins expendable, which every Browns fan knows is a good thing.
7. Cousins split time with Tony Pashos at right tackle last season, and neither of them was any good. Pass protection has been a major issue for the Browns on the right side of their line since Ryan Tucker’s downward spiral back in 2007.
8. Shugarts is not the long-term answer for the Browns, even if something should happen to Schwartz. Let’s not forget this is an undrafted free agent we’re talking about there.
9. There is as good a chance he doesn’t make the team coming out of camp as there is that he will be on the roster in 2012. He had trouble holding his blocks in college, and that’s only going to be magnified at the next level. He is not a great pass protector, which is why right tackle is really his only position, unless they decide to give him a try at right guard.
About Andrew Sweat…
Photo by Jim Davidson
1. It was good to see Sweat get a chance in the NFL. I wasn’t 100 percent sure he would be NFL material, and neither was he, apparently. He has been applying to law schools just in case the pro football route doesn’t work out for him.
2. Sweat was a steady college linebacker. It’s a shame he got hurt before the Michigan game, and really that he had to battle injuries for much of his career at Ohio State.
3. The lineup with him at middle linebacker and Ryan Shazier at ‘Will’ linebacker could have been a good look for the Buckeyes. Sweat probably wasn’t quite athletic enough to be a great ‘Will,’ although he was certainly their best linebacker last season.
3. Sweat would have been really good at Ohio State with the right guys around him. Give him a solid middle linebacker like James Laurinaitis, or even Brian Rolle, and Sweat probably would have had a pretty good senior season. Instead, he had to make up for OSU’s deficiencies in the middle last year.
4. The recent suspension of Scott Fujita could help Sweat make the team in Cleveland. Fujita was banned for three games to start the 2012 season for his role in the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal.
5. Fujita was expected to start at linebacker on a team that doesn’t have many. The Browns probably failed to address one of their biggest needs in the draft by waiting so long to get an outside linebacker.
6. They did get James-Michael Johnson in the fourth round, but the Nevada product is much better suited to play inside linebacker. Cleveland already has D’Qwell Jackson inside, however, so Johnson could get a look outside.
7. The Browns also drafted Emmanuel Acho, an outside linebacker from Texas in round six. He is the younger brother of former Texas linebacker Sam Acho, who made 40 tackles last year as a rookie with the Arizona Cardinals.
8. With Fujita suspended, the Browns don’t have a lot of options. They are already forced to start Chris Gocong at the other outside linebacker spot. Kaluka Maiava started six games last season and has 34 tackles in three years with the Browns.
9. Outside of those three, the Browns have a lot of young guys at linebacker. Benjamin Jacobs, Craig Robertson, Brian Smith and Quinton Spears are all second-year guys.
10. If Sweat can show enough in camp, he could beat out one of those unknown linebackers for a spot on the opening day roster. It’s still a longshot at this point, but Sweat certainly picked a good spot if he wants a chance to make an NFL roster.
11. At the very least, he should be able to start his career as a practice squad player, much like Justin Boren in Baltimore or Jim Cordle in New York.
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