The 2014 season was Phil Taylor's fourth as a Cleveland Brown. He's seen his fair share since being drafted out of Baylor in 2011's first round.
Injuries limited Taylor to just five games last season, but his swift moves on the defensive line contributed to the biggest win of the season.
When Cleveland romped the Bengals, 24-3, on Nov. 6, Taylor willed himself back onto the field after missing four games with a knee injury. Taylor posted three tackles in the game and plugged holes like a cork in a wine bottle. The 26-year-old's presence helped shore up a run defense that was in desperate need of some answers.
"Getting Phil back was a good spark for us," coach Mike Pettine said at the time. "He gave us some quality reps. He was very disruptive."
Taylor suffered a setback with his knee during the win against Cincinnati and was put on the injured reserve list. Part of the reason the Browns' run defense struggled later in the season was because of the absence of the 335-pounder. There was just no replacing Taylor's size.
Though he travels frequently during the offseason, Taylor spends a chunk of his time in Cleveland, frequenting Cavaliers games and checking in with other teammates at the Browns' facility in Berea. Younger Browns players recognize Taylor as a leader. When he speaks, it carries weight.
Though he admits it took him some time, Taylor grew fond of the way Pettine commanded the team – a missing element in years past.
"My first impression of coach Pettine was that he has that same look on his face all the time – everybody wondered if he was mean," Taylor said with a laugh. "And then once you start talking to him, you realize he's more than all right. He's cool. He's a great coach, everybody loves his coaching style. We had a great season with him in his first year."
So in Taylor's mind, the Browns can check off one major building block off their list. Well, make that two.
Because of the additional lower level seating, new audio and visual boards at FirstEnergy Stadium, Taylor felt like there was a true home-field advantage for the Browns. He's convinced the fans had more passion, which led to wins against the Saints, Steelers, Raiders and Buccaneers.
"The stadium was beautiful," Taylor said. "Just coming from my rookie year to how it was looking, to now – we actually have Swagger the dog mascot now. It was truly an awesome atmosphere."
In addition to Pettine and a rocking FirstEnergy Stadium, a fully healthy Taylor could also add to the Browns' win total. The 2015 season will be the final year of Taylor's contract, and he'll be out to verify he's worthy of an extension.
"I want to be in Cleveland as long as I can," Taylor said. "I want to retire as a Brown."