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D-Line makes early impression on coach

Posted Jul 12, 2013

Over the next few weeks, ClevelandBrowns.com will take a look at the 2013 Browns, position-by-position. Today’s spotlight is on the defensive line.

Overview:

The Cleveland Browns finished the 2012 regular season with 29 takeaways, which tied for the ninth-most in the NFL, and the defensive line accounted for nearly half of those turnovers.

Led by veteran Ahtyba Rubin, the Browns’ defensive line was responsible seven of the team’s 16 forced fumbles and had four of the 12 recoveries. Rookie defensive lineman Billy Winn added another turnover when he had one of the three interceptions the Browns registered in a 20-14 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Nov. 25, 2012.

In that win over the Steelers, the Browns forced eight turnovers, five fumbles and the three interceptions, which helped them shut out Pittsburgh in the second half and limit their AFC North Division rival to 242 yards of total offense.

Key Number:

Sixteen: the combined amount of games started by then-rookie defensive tackles Billy Winn and John Hughes last season.

Through the 2012 NFL Draft, the Browns added Hughes (third round) and Winn (sixth), and both players proved pivotal to the team’s defensive efforts.

Winn started 10 of 16 games for the Browns and collected 26 total tackles, 19 of which were solo efforts. The Boise State product registered his first sack in 7-6 win over the San Diego Chargers on Oct. 28 and recovered two fumbles, which he returned for 35 yards.

His two fumble recoveries were tied for the second-most by an NFL rookie last year.

Hughes started two games and played in all 16. He finished the year with 34 total tackles, including 18 solo stops, and 16 assists in addition to three sacks for 17 lost yards. He also defended a pass.

Hughes finished sixth in tackles among NFL rookies.

Players to Watch:

Rubin and Phil Taylor.

Since the start of the 2010 regular season, Rubin has registered 209 total tackles, more than any other defensive lineman in the NFL. A sixth-round pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, Rubin finished 2012 with 44 total tackles, two sacks for 13 lost yards, two pass breakups and two forced fumbles.

Over his five-year NFL career, Rubin has played in 73 of a possible 80 games, and since becoming a starter in 2010, has registered nine sacks for 66.5 lost yards.

Taylor missed the first eight games of the 2012 regular season because of a torn pectoral muscle suffered in the team’s offseason workouts. Despite having surgery in mid-May, Taylor returned to the team at the end of October and played against the Baltimore Ravens on Nov. 4.

Taylor matched a career single-game high when he registered a sack and set another with a recovered fumble against the Steelers on Nov. 25.

Throughout the offseason workouts, the Browns have installed their new 3-4 defense after switching from a 4-3, which was utilized in each of the last two seasons. In handling the transition and working with coach Joe Cullen, the defensive linemen have impressed coach Rob Chudzinski.

“I love that group,” Chudzinski said. “I think Joe Cullen is doing a great job with them. They are high-energy, high-effort guys. Their individual drills are fun to watch. They are getting after it and I love the attitude of that group.

“I’ve really been pleased with what (Taylor) has done, both from just understanding what he is doing to a technique standpoint to setting a tempo and the pace. You will see him as the first guy in line down there in the drill work, all of the things you would ask him to do.”