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Ends for 3-4 Tough To Find


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NFL draft preview: Ends for 3-4 tough to find

Published: Sunday, April 18, 2010



By Jeff Schudel



This story on defensive linemen is the fourth in a seven-part series previewing the NFL draft Thursday through Sunday. Monday: Linebackers.


More and more teams in the NFL are using three defensive linemen and four linebackers in their base defense.


College football teams have not followed the trend, and that makes it difficult for 3-4 NFL teams to find defensive ends.


The Browns search for defensive ends in the draft with the intensity NASA searches for life on other planets, and like NASA they get frustrated. That is one reason the Browns had to resort to free agency and a trade, respectively, to find the starting ends on their 2009 team — Robaire Smith (32) and Kenyon Coleman (30).


Maybe it will be different with this administration headed by team president Mike Holmgren and General Manager Tom Heckert. Heckert will be the one running the draft.


In Philadelphia, he gained a reputation of concentrating on offensive and defensive linemen for the Eagles' drafts.


"In our defense, the 3-4 ends are defensive tackles in college," Heckert said. "Our outside linebackers are defensive ends. It's a little bit of a projection, so that's where we have to do our work. It's a very good group."


Gerald McCoy, the 6-foot-4, 295-pound tackle from Oklahoma, could play end in a 3-4 defense, but he will be long gone before the Browns pick seventh unless an unexpected run on offensive tackles pushes him down the board.


Even with that, the Browns would have to trade up to get him.


Jared Odrick of Penn State, 6-5, 304 pounds, was a defensive tackle for Joe Paterno and is projected to play end in the NFL if he is drafted by a 3-4 team. He had 14.5 sacks for the Nittany Lions, seven as a senior. He would be a reach for the Browns with the seventh pick by most draft projections.


"Any team I go to, there's going to be an adjustment period," Odrick said. "Everybody has different techniques, whether you play a 3-4 or 4-3. It's not like just because it's a 4-3, you're automatically going to be able to fit. There's a learning process for everything. That's something I'm not afraid of or don't think I can't handle. 3-4 or 4-3, I'm excited to be a part of it."


One player who doesn't have a marquee name but who could still be around when the Browns are picking in the fifth round is Mike Neal, 6-2, 295 pounds from Purdue. He played defensive tackle for the Boilermakers but has the quickness to play end in the NFL, according to scouting reports.


"Has quickness, strength and power ... Looks unblockable when he is fresh and motivated," said a report in Pro Football Weekly.


Of course, if he is rated as the 15th best defensive tackle in the draft he has to have some flaw, and according to reports he has a tendency to get lazy. That is a difficult reputation to shake. The knock seems an odd one, because he was a team captain at Purdue.


Neal has also had knee and turf toe injuries in his career.


It would not be a shocker to see the Browns use a relatively high pick on a true nose tackle, given the precarious future of Shaun Rogers. Rogers is 31, coming off a broken leg and facing some discipline for being arrested at the airport with a loaded gun in his carry-on bag.


"Oops, my bad," isn't going to gain much sympathy from Commissioner Roger Goodell.


Terrance Cody is a 370-pound mountain from Alabama. He is projected to go late in the second round or early in the third. Cody cleared traffic to help make linebacker Rolando McClain a star for the Crimson Tide. He isn't much of a pass rusher, but he can occupy two blockers and plug the middle on running plays. He is strictly a two-down player.


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That's the first time I'ven noticed Mt. Cody going after the first round. That is interesting.


He looks like he needs to play at 350, though. Maybe 330, who knows...

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