Position thoughts: Defensive line

Posted by Vic Carucci on November 9, 2012 – 2:40 pm

By Vic Carucci, Senior Editor

This is the fifth in a series of position-by-position thoughts on the Browns after nine games. In this installment, we take a look at the defensive line:

>>The Browns have quickly realized major benefits from the two tackles they drafted: John Hughes, from Cincinnati, in the third round, and Billy Winn, from Boise State, in the sixth round. Hughes and Winn have performed exceptionally well. They’ve allowed defensive coordinator Dick Jauron to fully employ his system of frequently rotating defensive linemen, and that has gone a long way toward allowing the line to stay fresh late in games and the Browns to stay competitive in every game they’ve played.

>>As it turned out, the timing of Hughes’ and Winn’s arrival couldn’t have been better, given the torn pectoral muscle that sidelined Phil Taylor for the first eight games of the season. Hughes did a sufficient job of replacing Taylor’s considerable size and power. Winn has utilized his exceptional quickness to be a disruptive force in the backfield and an effective playmaker.

>>Taylor’s return in last Sunday’s loss against Baltimore instantly gave the Browns the dominant force they’ve missed since the start of the season. He is showing a better understanding of how to gain an edge against opposing offensive linemen, largely because he made a point of thoroughly studying all of the Browns’ opponents, even though he wasn’t playing against the first eight. Taylor and Hughes are capable of consistently collapsing the pocket and keeping even the best of running backs in check.

>>The Browns have missed Ahtyba Rubin, who has been sidelined for three of the last four games with a calf injury. Once they have him healthy, he could very well be part of as talented a group of rotating defensive tackles as any in the league.

>>Although end Jabaal Sheard only has two sacks, he has made his presence felt as a pass-rusher. He is playing with greater strength than he did as a rookie and is doing a good job of disengaging from blockers. Jauron firmly believes that Sheard is destined to be a major factor on the Browns’ defensive line for many years to come, and nothing about his performance contradicts that.

>>Free-agent ends Frostee Rucker and Juqua Parker have been solid contributors. Rucker’s size and power allow him to be stout at the point of attack. Parker is a workmanlike player who is relentless. Even when he doesn’t get the quarterback on the ground, he can chase him out of the pocket.

>>Carucci’s Corner is presented by Panera Bread.

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