For the first time in 10 months, Phil Taylor was on the football field for the Cleveland Browns.
In 11 total snaps with the first-team unit against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Taylor reminded the Browns coaching staff of how his massive frame can still play a critical role within the defense. Taylor was took on multiple blockers on the play Desmond Bryant collected his second sack.
Coach Pettine called it a productive night for big ole No. 98.
"It felt great to shake the cobwebs off," the 335-pound Taylor said in the locker room Saturday in Tampa.
In 2014, Taylor played in a career-low five games and was forced to undergo surgery after aggravating a previous knee injury Nov. 6 against the Bengals. The injury limited Taylor for much of the spring and he took minimal repetitions during training camp.
In March, Pettine announced Taylor would switch back from defensive end to nose tackle, stirring up memories of his 2013 season. Though it was a different scheme under defensive coordinator Ray Horton, Taylor racked up 57 tackles in the middle of the defense and was rated as the seventh-best player on the defense, according to Pro Football Focus.
Entering his fifth NFL season, Taylor is no doubt an established veteran in the locker room. But two young nose tackles on the roster are preparing to launch their respective careers, too.
Both Danny Shelton and Jamie Meder have been two of Cleveland's most productive defensive players during the preseason slate. Shelton started the game Saturday and Meder secured five tackles and a sack in only 13 snaps. Meder is not only gunning for a roster spot, but possible significant playing time once the season begins.
"We've got depth on the D-Line now," Taylor said. "If anybody goes down or leaves the game or just needs a blow, we won't miss a beat."
"We are all relentless and we're ready to get after that ball," Meder said.
On Monday, the Browns trimmed their roster from 90 to 84. They'll have to get it down to 75 players by Tuesday, and 53 players by Saturday.