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Breakout Year?

Postby slowkidz » Sun Jul 06, 2003 8:09 am

BROWNS BEAT: Lang, Gardner due for breakout year
Sunday, July 6, 2003 Steve Doerschuk Repository
sports writer
BEREA -- For some high NFL draft picks, that
elusive breakout season forever remains somewhere
over the rainbow.

The colors are fading for linebacker Barry
Gardner and defensive end Kenard Lang. Could this
be the year these two key Browns find the magic
lights?

"I'm definitely thinking that way," the
26-year-old Gardner said.

Lang, 28, seems less sure he hasn't already
broken out.

"I feel I played fine last season," Lang said. "I
had 61⁄2 sacks (official team stats say
51⁄2 ). I was close to getting other sacks.
Shoot, if I can make those extra sacks, who
knows? I might be in the Pro Bowl."

Regardless of how their pasts are evaluated, it's
clear the Browns need them now. Gardner must
apply experience and talent to a linebacker corps
with no incumbent starters. Lang must help a
baffling defensive line take a quantum leap.

Heading into training camp, Defensive Coordinator
Dave Campo reflects the concerns surrounding both
units.

"I'd say we have some solid guys up there," he
said in a tepid overview of the defensive line.

On the linebackers: "All I can tell you is we are
going to be fast. I don't know if we can tackle.
I have no idea what we're going to do."

Lang already has found his pot of gold. Before
the 2002 season, his former college coach, Butch
Davis, signed him to a five-year, $17 million
free agency deal, featuring a $3.4 million cash
bonus.

There was a run on defensive ends in 1997. The
Bengals grabbed Florida State's Reinard Wilson at
No. 14 overall. With the 17th and 18th picks, the
Redskins and Oilers tapped Miami (Fla.) teammates
Lang and Kenny Holmes. With the No. 21 selection,
the Jaguars got Notre Dame's Renaldo Wynn.

None has gone to a Pro Bowl.

In six NFL seasons, Lang has 27 sacks. Michael
Strahan, a former No. 40 overall pick, had
221⁄2 in a single season.

Lang will not use injuries as an excuse for his
unspectacular first season in Cleveland. He was
slowed by a high ankle sprain and a pulled groin
but missed just one game, mostly playing left
end.

"I wouldn't say it's just about staying healthy,"
Lang said. "Just be more consistent."

Lang has a loud personality that earned him the
nickname "People's Choice" in Washington. He was
elected as one of the team captains last year,
but he wasn't always sure he should speak up.

"I didn't want to step on no toes," he said. "Now
here I am in my second year, ready to let it all
hang out."

Gardner wasn't ready to let it all hang out when
he became an Eagles starter his rookie year. His
play was so-so, and he has spent most of the last
three years as a backup. The Browns got him at a
relative bargain rate in free agency.

Gardner was drafted out of Northwestern in 1999,
four picks after the Browns made wideout Kevin
Johnson the top choice of Round 2.

Asked if he senses a breakout year for Gardner,
Davis only would say, "It's time."

The 6-foot, 248-pound Gardner seems bright,
upbeat and eager.

By now, he said he does not think of his career
in terms of what a former second-round pick was
supposed to have become.

"I want to win," he said. "That's pressure
enough. I prepare myself every day to be a
starter. I can't help us win from the sidelines."

Both Gardner and second-year pro Andra Davis went
through minicamp at middle linebacker, with Davis
drawing animated praise from Butch Davis.

"Barry can play any position," Campo said.

He could wind up as the starting strong-side
linebacker, with second-year pro Kevin Bentley,
also from Northwestern, on the weak side, and
Andra Davis in the middle.

The Browns have parted ways with 2002 starters
Dwayne Rudd, Earl Holmes and Darren Hambrick.
Jamir Miller, a 2001 Pro Bowler, has retired. If
a fifth-year hopeful cannot start in Cleveland,
chances are it is not going to happen.

"It's a great situation," Gardner said.

Gardner seems to be laying low, as if preparing
to sneak up on a breakout year.

Lang does not know how to lay low. He has
exhorting his teammates to go for the downs.

"I never think playoffs. Or just winning our
division," he said. "That's chump change. I want
that big prize at the end."
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Postby Homeless » Sun Jul 06, 2003 6:40 pm

Pro bowlers ! Hmmm :-)
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Postby Guttpuppy » Sat Jul 19, 2003 1:26 am

These clowns couldn't break their way out of a wet paperbag.
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