The Cleveland Cavaliers just won an NBA Championship. The Cleveland Indians are in first place of the AL Central by 6.5 games. The Cleveland Browns…are still really good at ruining your day, apparently.
Granted, you can’t blame the team for the latest bit of bad news. Still, it’s definitely not the kind of day-brightener local fans have been getting from the other teams in town.
It was announced last night defensive end Desmond Bryant suffered a torn pectoral muscle, for which he underwent surgery. The recovery time is five to six months, all but eliminating his chances of playing any time in the upcoming season.
Bryant, who led the team in sacks last season, was preparing to be one of the leaders in a locker room which got significantly younger over the offseason. He seemed to be gung-ho about the opportunity, too. As a result of this surgery, Cleveland loses a major player both on the field and off it.
It goes without saying this makes the prognosis for the Browns’ defense quite grim. The unit already has holes across the board, and Bryant’s injury only creates another sizable one.
As they say, though, when God closes a door, he opens a window. It appears said window has been opened for rookie Carl Nassib. With Bryant out of the picture, last year’s NCAA sack leader gets a chance to make Cleveland look smart for picking him this past spring.
On the surface, the above statement sounds a bit weird. Why would Nassib, who led the nation with 15.5 sacks at Penn State last year, really need to prove anything outside of whether or not he can cut it in the NFL?
Well, there was a reason 64 selections went by before Nassib’s name was called by Cleveland at the draft. Frankly, the knock on the young defensive end is the belief he was simply a one-year wonder last season.
Due to both lack of experience (only playing three seasons at Penn State) and just general rawness, scouts saw Nassib as someone who had upside, but also needed a lot of work. The note “not physical at the point of attack and can be mauled by power” followed him on pre-draft scouting reports.
So, as impressively as Nassib played in his final year of college, there’s still plenty of doubt hovering over him as he enters his first season in the pros. The pressure he faces only increases now that his name slides up the depth chart due to Bryant’s injury.
If there’s any upside in the increase in reps for an unpolished defensive end, it’s that the tall task couldn’t have been given to a more willing player.
Nassib’s story is already quite impressive, and only displays how intense his drive to succeed really is. When attempting to walk on with Penn State, he was essentially told by then-coach Bill O’Brien to forget about the idea of him playing football. Six months later, he was given a scholarship. After barely touching the field in his first two years, he transitioned from special teams to defensive line to leading the country in sacks despite missing two games.
So, one would think the Browns telling him he’ll need to step up and prove himself in Bryant’s absence would only be more fuel. This is a player who’s been doubted since his first days at Penn State, who pro scouts all labeled as too weak for the NFL. As a result, the unanimous All-American has plenty of skepticism pointed in his direction.
With Bryant sidelined, Nassib’s opportunity to prove the doubters wrong is going to come quicker than we initially thought. His history certainly makes you believe he’s more than willing to take on the challenge.