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2011 Position Reviews, Presented by Giant Eagle

Posted Feb 2, 2012

Much like he did in 2010, Ahtyba Rubin served as an anchor for the Browns’ defensive line during the 2011 season.

Overview:

During the 2011 NFL Draft, the Cleveland Browns made sure they addressed some perceived needs along the defensive line when they selected tackle Phil Taylor and end Jabaal Sheard with their first two picks last April.

The team had the unique challenge of switching from a 3-4 defensive scheme to a 4-3 front while also breaking two rookie defensive linemen -- Taylor and Sheard -- into the starting lineup with no offseason program and a new coordinator on that side of the football in the person of Dick Jauron.

However difficult that challenge seemed to be, the Browns’ defensive linemen played a major role in the success of the defense.

In the 3-4 during the 2010 season, the Browns’ defensive linemen registered just seven of the team’s 29 sacks. One year later, the defensive line registered 22 of the team’s 32 sacks.

Overall, Cleveland’s defense raised its level of pressure and Sheard ended the year with a higher individual sack total -- 8.5 -- than the entire line accounted for in 2010.

Outstanding Performer:

Fourth-year lineman Ahtyba Rubin began his NFL career as a nose tackle and was productive as the Browns’ only interior lineman for his first three seasons. Even with the switch to a 4-3 front, Rubin was an impact player in the middle of the defensive line.

Rubin registered 83 tackles, the second-most on the team, 56 solo stops, 27 assists and 5.0 sacks for 36.5 lost yards.

Rubin has made 32 consecutive starts for the Browns and finished a career year as he set new personal bests for tackles, assists and sacks. He more than doubled his career sack total with the five he registered in 2011.

Key Stat:

61.

As the four opening day starters for the Browns in 2011, Sheard, Taylor, Rubin and Jayme Mitchell combined to start 61 out of a possible 64 games. Mitchell missed three games during the season, Nov. 13 against the St. Louis Rams, Nov. 20 against the Jacksonville Jaguars and Nov. 27 at the Cincinnati Bengals.

What to Watch For:

How the young nucleus of the defensive line progresses.

After drafting Sheard and Taylor, who will be entering just their second NFL seasons in 2012, and re-signing Mitchell as a free agent, the Browns extended Rubin’s contract.

Sheard and Taylor became the first rookie defensive line tandem to start all 16 games since the 1992 Tampa Bay Buccaneers achieved the same feat. Sheard, the third-youngest player on the Browns, started the first game of the year at right defensive end, but was quickly switched to left end, where he played at The University of Pittsburgh.

Sheard responded to the change well and finished among the NFL leaders with five forced fumbles. Only Detroit’s Cliff Avril and Baltimore’s Terrell Suggs finished with more forced fumbles than Sheard, the Browns’ first player to force five fumbles in a single-season since the team returned to the NFL in 1999.

Sheard led all first-year defensive linemen and was third among all NFL rookies with 8.5 sacks, second-most ever by a Brown.

Taylor collected 59 tackles, broke up one pass, forced a fumble and registered four sacks for 14 lost yards. Taylor tied with Carolina’s Thomas Keiser for eighth among all first-year NFL players in sacks and trailed only Tennessee’s Karl Klug (seven sacks) among all rookie defensive tackles.

Position Reviews are presented by Giant Eagle. The Official Supermarket of the Cleveland Browns.

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