Often occupying both a center and a guard on every down, nose tackles do all the dirty work, take the most punishment, and receive the least amount of acknowledgment.
Nose tackles around the NFL such as Vince Wilfork and Casey Hampton have done their jobs well for a long time, but often times without much recognition…and certainly less than their counterparts—defensive tackles.
One needs to ask…why is the NT often overlooked in a successfully-run 3-4? It’s because just like a left tackle on offense, if you don’t hear a peep about them—they’re usually playing well.
Note—Rankings are out of 21 NT’s and 87 combined NT’s and DT’s in the NFL with at least 25 percent of their team’s snaps to qualify. DT’s were also added in the rankings to achieve a better gauge on all interior defensive linemen.
Out of 21 nose tackles in the NFL last year, Cleveland had the second and third best ones statistically on their team. That’s an amazing one-two punch the Browns have at this position.
Now, if you combine all the NT’s and DT’s in the NFL you’d end up with 87 players. Out of those 87:
When ranked with all interior defensive linemen in the NFL, both of Cleveland’s nose tackles were in the top 12. Rating slightly behind both Pat and Kevin Williams for Minnesota, and Albert Haynesworth and Lorenzo Alexander in Washington—the Browns boasted the third best NT/DT duo in the league last season.
NT’s and DT’s
This tells us that Rubin was holding up his blockers for the linebackers more often than not, or perhaps Rubin just isn’t very good at getting to the QB. Even if pass-rushing isn’t his strong point, that’s not really what you’re looking for out of your NT—with Rogers, it’s something extra that he brings to the table.
Against The Run
NT’s and DT’s
This is disparaging in comparison to their pass rushing statistics…almost night and day. This is really the only area Rogers was average in. You can attribute this to his apparent freelance style of play, whereas it seems like Rubin plays his position in more of a traditional style—but both are extremely good at their respective crafts.
Ahtyba Rubin can play more often during obvious running situations, but if the down is second or third and long, the Browns can put Rogers in and have another good pass-rusher in the game. It’s a luxury—can you believe it? The Browns having a luxury?
Shaun Rogers—1st (8)
Ahtyba Rubin—10th (1)
NT’s and DT’s
Shaun Rogers—1st (23)
Ahtyba Rubin—17th (2)
NT’s and DT’s
These are both tributes to their pass-rushing comparison. This is the one area where Ahtyba Rubin was extremely poor, but again…no one knows for certain what was always being asked of him on defense, so this is something that Browns fans can keep an eye on for next season.
Finishing in the top five in both QB hits and pressures while missing five games in 2009, Shaun Rogers was one of—if not the best—pass-rushing interior defensive linemen in the league.
Shaun Rogers—7th (26)
Ahtyba Rubin—7th (26)
NT’s and DT’s
Both playing about half a season, Rogers and Rubin tied with 26 tackles apiece. Adding up total tackles by team from the NT position, the Browns finished third behind only Jacksonville (65) and New England (58). 52 total tackles from the NT position is great production even if it doesn’t look like much at first glance.
QB Sacks (A lot of ties)
So far, no moves have been made at nose tackle—and don’t expect any. There have recently been rumors about Shaun Rogers being moved for draft picks, but now with the recent trade of Corey Williams this scenario seems highly unlikely.
The only perceived “move” that could be made is pairing Shaun Rogers and Ahtyba Rubin on the defensive line at the same time—either as a NT and DE, or as a DT duo in a 4-3 alignment. Browns fans have been clamoring about this particular defensive look for months, and it appears it may come to fruition.
Only anticipate Cleveland spending a late round pick on a NT or DT in this draft, as it’s currently one of their strongest positions on the roster. If one is drafted earlier than expected, the Browns may be looking to move Shaun Rogers at a later date, or would be looking to have one of the most dominant 3-4 defensive lines in the NFL.
Some Browns fans believe that the defense played better after Shaun Rogers was injured. Although the numbers support this opinion, there is one statistic that is more telling…and that is time of possession.
In their first three games, Cleveland averaged a paltry 27 minutes per game in time of possession, while their opponents averaged 33. This number got even worse as mid-season approached putting Cleveland right near the bottom of the league.
On the other hand...in Cleveland’s last three games, they averaged 33 minutes per game in time of possession—placing them sixth overall during that span. The defense was simply on the field much less resulting in better all-around statistics and play. The Browns eventually finished the season ranked 22nd in time of possession.
In 2008, Cleveland finished dead last in overall time of possession with a measly average of 26 minutes per game for the entire season. It’s no wonder the defense has appeared to be lackluster, because the offense can’t stay on the field. When they do, the defense seems to play better. This isn’t rocket science.
The nose tackle is one of the most important positions in football and teams don’t generally part ways with a good one or trade them for draft picks. The New England Patriots…a team that is often times said to be very frugal with its money recently signed Vince Wilfork to a 5-year $40 million extension.
Not So Fun Facts
Let’s take a look at Shaun Rogers’ career win/loss record.
Are you ready for this? Shaun Rogers’ career record in the NFL is 40-103. That’s an average of right in between 4-12 and 5-11.
The poor guy has never played on a team with a winning record in all nine of his NFL seasons. In fact, he’s never even been part of a team that finished 8-8. If this defensive monster actually received some assistance, there’s no telling how great he can play, or how much he can dominate at the line of scrimmage and wreak havoc in opponent’s backfields.
Going by the numbers, right now you’d have to think that Cleveland has one of the best NT situations in football. Does this make Shaun Rogers expendable? Absolutely, but Cleveland also shouldn’t unsettle a team strength because they finally have legitimate depth at a very important position.
Suppose they do trade Rogers, and Rubin gets hurt or can’t handle the load…where does that leave them? Right where they were defensively three or four years ago. Does anyone really want to go through that again?
Shaun Rogers played 569 snaps and Ahtyba Rubin played 358. This ranks them 33rd and 60th respectively among all 87 interior defensive linemen.
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All rankings are based from profootballfocus.com . Stats don’t tell the entire story, but they do reveal a lot and these stats are about as close as you’re going to get in terms of judging a player’s overall season—position by position, game by game, and play by play.