|03-30-2005, 11:47 AM||#1|
Join Date: Sep 2002
Location: South of Boston
PFW writer on the Brown deal
March 30, 2005
Denver continues to build D-line of former Browns
ProFootballWeekly.com asked associate editor Jeff Reynolds for his thoughts on the hottest topics in the NFL.
Broncos add another ex-Brown with pending Ekuban-for-Droughns trade
A deal that was expected to be official as early as Wednesday would reunite Browns DE Ebenezer Ekuban with former Cleveland linemates Courtney Brown and Gerard Warren. Ekuban, a former first-round pick who battled injuries in Dallas before joining the Browns as an unrestricted free agent a year ago, is the primary bargaining chip Cleveland dangled to acquire RB Reuben Droughns. Droughns ran for 1,240 yards last season, replacing injured starter Quentin Griffin. Second-year RB Tatum Bell is expected to start for the Broncos in 2005.
PFW: Can the Broncos build a dominant defense without a proven, marquee-type player to anchor the defensive line?
Reynolds: Let’s not forget that Trevor Pryce, even though he missed the final 15 games last season with a back injury, remains on the Broncos’ roster and has Pro Bowl-ability when healthy. While Pryce might not be long for Denver under his current contract structure, a dry trade market could lead to his return. Pryce has had permission from the team to seek a trade, but no suitors have emerged to swallow his $9 million cap figure.
Moving to a winning environment (remember Corey Dillon) can change perception and reality, and the Broncos believe Warren and Brown are not complete busts, as they have been labeled. Denver's veteran leadership core of Al Wilson, John Lynch and Champ Bailey is tremendous. Attitudes and effort will change for any player sharing a meeting room or the playing field with this group. And we shouldn't be quick to typecast Denver's defense as a group of retreads. Including the three new Browns, Denver has the potential to field a starting 11 of which seven were drafted among the top 40 picks.
Pryce, Brown and Ekuban all are athletic and talented — when they are on the field. Ekuban had a career year in Cleveland last season with eight sacks, but he had multiple surgeries in the offseason for the third time in four years. He’s had knee, back, shoulder and ankle problems in the past and won’t be counted on as more than a 30-play per game player who can be effective in a rotation. The team has the highest hopes for Brown. New Broncos DL coach Andre Patterson believes Brown can still a Pro Bowl player — Patterson coached Brown, Ekuban and Warren in Cleveland — with some luck and a new environment. Brown can hold the point and displays agility and power as a pass-rusher. Avoiding injury may be his greatest hurdle. Brown rarely has looked his best against top competition like Ravens All-Pro OLT Jonathan Ogden. He will get two chances against Willie Roaf (Chiefs) and a few shots at the Raiders, whose bookends Barry Sims and Robert Gallery finished the season strong.
Warren was considered a risk when Butch Davis and the Browns chose him with the third overall pick in 2001. Most teams rated several interior defensive linemen as high or higher than Brown and the likes of Marcus Stroud, John Henderson, Shaun Rogers, Kris Jenkins and Casey Hampton all have outperformed Warren to date. While he looks the part at 6-3, 330, and has the power as a pass-rusher to wreak havoc as a three-down lineman, Warren is dialed in only for short stretches, has never developed a lethal counter move to his bull rush and gets fat and lazy.