Sheard emerges as leader on D-Line

Posted Jan 10, 2013

Jabaal Sheard registered five sacks in the Browns’ last seven games of the season, his second in the NFL.

In only his second year, Cleveland Browns defensive end Jabaal Sheard found himself in the role of leader with veteran defensive ends Frostee Rucker and Juqua Parker working next to rookie tackles Billy Winn, John Hughes, and Ishmaa’ily Kitchen.

Sheard, Parker and Rucker had to work with the young tackles when Phil Taylor (torn pectoral muscle) and Ahtyba Rubin (calf) combined to miss 11 games.

“Early in the season, when guys were injured, Big Rube, Big Phil were out and Emmanuel (Stephens) went down at defensive end, Billy was able to help at defensive end a little bit,” Sheard said “Those guys played hard and they played well. I think they adapted pretty fast and learned the game pretty fast.

“This year, we became closer as a defensive line. We had older guys in there that knew a lot about the game and that were very wise, experienced and really helped out when we were watching film. They dropped a lot of knowledge on a very young defensive line.”

Sheard, who led the team with eight-and-a-half sacks during his rookie season in 2011, again finished with the best total on the team in 2012. However, it was not until the defensive line was completely healthy that Sheard emerged in his second season.

With Taylor and Rubin back in the starting lineup, Sheard registered five of his team-best seven sacks after the bye week on Nov. 11.

In the team’s second game with the defensive line playing at full strength, the Browns defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers, 20-14, at Cleveland Browns Stadium. Sheard registered two tackles in the game and was part of a defense that forced seven fumbles, five of which they recovered, and three interceptions.

“The (eight) turnovers against the Steelers, that’s just unheard of,” Sheard said. “To this day, when you hear (eight) turnovers against the Steelers, our rival, it’s crazy. Our defense played so well that day and everybody played hard and I think we were the bully that day.”

Although the Browns lost the second meeting to the Steelers on Dec. 30, Sheard ended the season on a high note when he registered two sacks of Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger on third-down plays.

The two sacks came on the same field Sheard played his college football, Heinz Field. The University of Pittsburgh share Heinz Field with the Steelers.

“My favorite play I made this season was sacking Big Ben twice in the last game,” Sheard said. “I was back at Pitt, and I’m pretty sure everybody at Pitt was watching. I’m not happy by the fact that we lost, but just the fact that I got the chance to sack him twice was big.

“It’s third down. I know I’ve got the dudes back deep, I know I’ve got Joe (Haden) back there covering, I’ve got Buster (Skrine) back there covering hard. I know we’ve got to get there. I know everybody on the front four was racing to the quarterback. Before the play, we were like, ‘I’ll meet you back there. Party at the quarterback.’ That adrenaline’s running and everybody’s pumped to get back there. You just don’t want to lose the race.”

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