Browns 2014 outlook: Defensive front still deep
Editor’s Note: Browns beat reporter Fred Greetham will break down the Browns roster on a position-by-position basis. We’ll now start looking at the defense with the defensive line.
Defensive Linemen: Desmond Bryant, Ahtyba Rubin, Phil Taylor, Billy Winn, John Hughes, Ishmaa’ily Kitchen, Brian Sanford, Armonty Bryant
D. Bryant (6-6, 310, 28) — Bryant started the season with a flourish as he had two sacks in his first game and then added 1.5 sacks in the next two games. He had to leave the Bills game with an irregular heartbeat, but played seven more games before being shut down due to the irregular heartbeat. He was placed on the Reserve/Non-football Illness list and had an ablation to repair his condition on Dec. 6. In his 12 games, Bryant finished with 45 tackles and 3.5 sacks. He was credited with 32 quarterback harassments, which led the team. Bryant is expected to make a full recovery for next season. Bryant was one of the Browns biggest free agent signings last off-season, but was never the same after the irregular heartbeat surfaced.
Rubin (6-2, 330, 27) — Rubin finished the season with 80 tackles, two sacks and 10 quarterback harassments in 14 games as the left end in the 3-4 defense. He missed two games with a calf injury. Rubin led the team in tackles among the defensive linemen and continues to be a steady performer.
Taylor (6-3, 335, 25) — Taylor started at nose tackle for the first 15 games and registered 57 tackles with two sacks. He missed the final game of the season against the Steelers with a concussion. Taylor had 12 quarterback harassments. He seemed to be a bit out of place in the 3-4 and might be better suited to the 4-3.
Winn (6-4, 295, 24) — Winn finished the season sharing the starting right end position with Hughes in place of Desmond Bryant. Winn had 30 tackles with two sacks and a forced fumble. He had 12 quarterback harassments in 11 games. Winn missed five games with a quad injury.
Hughes (6-2, 320, 25) — Hughes played in 15 games with two starts and had 48 tackles with two sacks. He had 10 quarterback harassments and a fumble recovery.
Kitchen (6-1, 330, 25) — Kitchen was used primarily as a reserve and appeared in 13 games with 29 tackles and five quarterback harassments.
Sanford (6-2, 280, 26) — Sanford joined the Browns at the end of the season and played in the season finale with one tackle.
Bryant (6-4, 265, 23) — The rookie seventh-round draft choice was a pleasant surprise as he started the season as a developmental but played in 12 games and finished with 20 tackles and two sacks. He had 12 quarterback harassments.
Summary: The Browns switched to the 3-4 for the 2013 season and it is uncertain if the new coach will keep the 3-4 in place or will switch back to the 4-3. The front line is a strength of the team and they have depth behind Desmond Bryant, Taylor and Rubin. Winn and Hughes could start for many NFL teams. Armonty Bryant showed the ability to rush the passer in limited opportunities.
Looking Ahead: One of the biggest unknowns presently is if the Browns will stay with the 3-4 or revert back to the 4-3. If they go back to the 4-3, Jabaal Sheard would likely switch back to defensive end. It is unknown what they would do with Barkevious Mingo. The Browns were pretty strong against the run last season and they have the personnel to play either defensive front. Assuming Desmond Bryant is able to return to his early season form before the irregular heartbeat sidelined him, the defensive line should continue to be in good shape. Rubin has one of the highest salary cap numbers on the team for next season and they might try to re-structure his contract.
(Next we’ll look at the linebackers)