BEREA, Ohio — With the injuries piling up on the defensive line, it is a mere lock that either rookie John Hughes or Billy Winn will line up with Ahtyba Rubin at tackle on Sept. 9 against the Eagles.
Starter defensive tackle Phil Taylor is lost for the first part of the season with a pectoral injury and backups Scott Paxson (knee), Auston English (undisclosed), Marcus Benard (dislocated elbow) and Brian Schaefering (undisclosed) are currently out.
So the question is: Will it be Hughes or Winn?
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Hughes is listed as the starter on the depth chart, but Winn lined up first with the starting unit at practice Monday.
“It’s safe to say there will be a little rotation in there with the guys we have on the roster,” Pat Shurmur said. “Of course, somebody has to play the first play, but you usually use several guys.”
“I think we’re both competent,” Winn said. “We’ll have a rotation out there.”
Hughes (6-2, 320) was selected in the third round of this year’s draft from Cincinnati. Winn was taken in the sixth round from Boise State.
Winn said he doesn’t worry about being selected as low as he was, rather thinking about the opportunity he has.
“I don’t think about it,” Winn said. “I’m here wearing a Browns uniform and my foot is in the door and I’m putting everything I have into it. I try to practice and play every down like it’s my last time.”
Hughes has three tackles, including one for a loss against the Packers in the second preseason game.
In the third preseason game, Winn (6-4, 295) had two tackles against the Eagles and tracked down LeSean McCoy for a four-yard loss in the first quarter. He has six tackles thus far in the preseason.
Winn, who sports a Mohawk haircut, knows he has much to learn, but he enjoyed starting against the Eagles.
“I have a lot of work to do in both areas, the pass rush and run stopping, but I feel I have a lot of versatility and that helps a lot,” Winn said. … “It felt good to get out there. I felt that I made some good things happen.”
Coach Shurmur likes what he sees.
“(Winn’s) done an excellent job,” Shurmur said. “He plays fast and finds a way to free himself up in there. That is hard at the defensive tackle position. I think he’s done a good job in creating a bit of a rush and he’s a good athlete.
“He’s a skateboard guy.”
Winn was asked what Shurmur meant by that.
“I was an action sports guy,” Winn said. “I grew up watching the ‘X Games’ and doing flips on the skateboard and all.”
Winn was asked if he still does any skateboarding.
“No. It’s too crazy now.”
Patterson improving: DB Dimitri Patterson was on the stationary bicycle on Monday. It was the first time he’s been seen on the practice field since getting injured against the Lions in the first preseason game. The team has not confirmed his injury, but it is believed to have been an ankle sprain. He was walking without a limp and didn’t have either ankle heavily wrapped.
Shurmur said Patterson is coming along fine and the team is hopeful he’ll be back practicing soon.
“He’s making great progress and am happy he’s feeling less sore,” Shurmur said.
Patterson is being counted on to be no less than the third cornerback, but with a possible suspension of CB Joe Haden looming, Patterson would move into the starting lineup, if healthy.
Richardson, too: Shurmur was again asked about running back Trent Richardson. Unlike Patterson, Richardson hasn’t been seen on the sidelines at practice.
“Richardson is making great progress and he’ll back out there (practicing) soon,” Shurmur said.
When pressed about his definition of soon, the coach was asked if that meant in an hour.
“No. Sooner or later he’ll be out there and then we’ll talk about it,” Shurmur said.
Hardesty not demoted: During Richardson’s absence, running back Montario Hardesty has been running with the first team. Shurmur said that Hardesty was not demoted after fumbling the ball against the Eagles. Rather, he was held out of practice due to soreness from the game.
“He was out there practicing,” Shurmur said. “There are reasons why guys don’t practice. He was sore from the game.”
Running back Brandon Jackson ran with the first team in practice, while Hardesty was alternating with Jackson on the first team.
Injury update: The Browns continue to have a number of players missing practice. Out were DB David Sims (undisclosed) and DL Auston English (undisclosed). DE Marcus Benard is out with a dislocated elbow suffered against the Eagles.
“(Benard) dislocated his elbow and they fixed it,” Shurmur said. “We’ll just see how quickly he’ll progress.”
Benard could be placed on the season-ending injured reserve list or could be out for multiple weeks, depending on the decisions made on the roster. LB Chris Gocong (Achilles) is expected to be placed on injured reserve at roster cut down time.
DB Patterson (ankle), LB Scott Fujita (knee), DB Ray Ventrone (hamstring), DL Scott Paxson (knee), TE Ben Watson (undisclosed), English and DL Phil Taylor (pectoral) were on stationary bikes.
RB Chris Ogbonnaya (ankle), RB Richardson (knee), Gocong (Achilles), OL Oniel Cousins (foot), Benard (elbow), DL Brian Schaefering (undisclosed), DB Antwuan Reed (undisclosed) and LB Emmanuel Acho (undisclosed) were not at practice.
Young back: After missing the majority of training camp with what was reported as a hamstring injury, DB Usama Young was back on Monday. He said his injury was a ‘quadriceps’ pull, not a hamstring, which is what plagued him in training camp in 2011.
Shurmur was asked if Young missing time would allow him to find a spot in the rotation. Eric Hagg has claimed the free safety position with Young out.
“I talked about veterans that can miss time,” Shurmur said. “(Young’s) found a way to stay healthy during the season, but anytime you’re not out there, it slows your ability to get ready.”
Roster moves: The Browns cut down to 80 players on Monday by releasing WR Carlton Mitchell, OL Jake Anderson, OL Matt Cleveland, DB Emanuel Davis, LB Jo Jo Dickson, P Spencer Lanning, WR Bert Reed, WR Jermaine Saffold and WR Owen Spencer. They needed to be at 75 by Monday evening. It is expected that two will be Gocong being moved to injured reserve and Taylor to the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list. Also, Reed might be part of an injury settlement.
Replacement zebras: Shurmur wouldn’t comment about starting the regular season with replacement referees.
“We’re all busting our fannies trying to get it right, players, coaches, and referees in the preseason they’re working through it like we are,” he said.