The Cleveland Browns have an aging defensive line that is short on production and moving Shaun Rogers from nose tackle to defensive end would help solve both.
Rogers would be more productive generating a pass rush and chasing down running backs at end, and the team would benefit greatly from having both him and young prospect Ahtyba Rubin in the starting lineup.
The defensive line accounted for a grand total of 10.5 sacks and eight tackles for a loss last year. That is not the production Coach Mangini or Defensive Coordinator Rob Ryan wants, or we, as Cleveland Browns fans, are entitled to.
There are two different ways to look at the projected starters on the defensive line: with or without Shaun Rogers at nose tackle.
If Shaun Rogers starts at nose tackle, then solid professional Robaire Smith, 62 tackles and 1.5 sacks, will start at the defensive tackle/end position and the dreaded weak link, Kenyon Coleman, with only 38 tackles and 1.5 sacks, will probably start at defensive end.
This was the lineup that the Browns started with last year when they began they season 1-11.
Rogers was injured in the 11th game against Cincinnati and Rubin replaced him for the last five games including the four game winning streak.
Kenyon Coleman either didn't play in three of the last five games or didn't record a statistic.
Do we begin to see a pattern emerge with Rubin at the nose and Coleman on the bench?
If Rogers moves to defensive end replacing Coleman, then Ahtyba Rubin will man nose tackle and Smith defensive tackle.
Rogers is 31, Smith is 32, Coleman is 31, and Rubin will only be 24 when the season starts.
Rogers is an absolute physical marvel at 6'4" 360lbs, who is a penetrating lineman and can dunk a basketball jumping flat footed. He commands defensive attention and double teams on almost every play he is in for and spends a good deal of time in the opposing team's backfield.
Therein lies part of the problem.
In the Brown's 3-4 defense, defensive coordinator Rob Ryan wants his nose tackle, in the zero technique position, to occupy blockers and fill the A gap, not necessarily penetrate. The linebackers and safeties are supposed to be the playmakers.
Ahtyba Rubin, the backup nose tackle, fills the desired role exactly as the coaches draw it up. Nowhere was that more evident than in the Brown's week 14 win against the Pittsburgh Steelers when the Browns held the Steelers to only 77 yards rushing and sacked Ben Roethlisberger seven times.
With Rubin in the lineup occupying the blockers and maintaining A gap integrity, he helped the Browns win their last four games as the defense flew around, blitzed with authority and basically did what Ryan wanted to the best of their ability.
Rogers, who has 35.5 career sacks as an interior lineman, would be a totally unique proposition for opposing defenses to gameplan for at end. There is no one at end in the NFL to compare him to and he would manhandle many of the league's lightertackles.
Offensive coordinators would be forced to leave running backs in to help against Rogers and tight ends would also have to line up on his side and stay in to help instead of going out to run routes sometimes.
With Rubin executing the defensive game plan as drawn up, the linebackers led by newly signed Scott Fujita, Matt Roth, D'Qwell Jackson, and the many others will be freed up to make plays in the running game and drop into coverage when needed.
Instead of being taken out by a pulling guard or fullback who slipped past Rogers when he over ran the play.
The safeties, led by Abe Elam, rookies T.J. Ward and Larry Asante, would also benefit from Rogers and Rubin both being in the game.
Rogers and Rubin would occupy blockers and let the safeties blitz and terrorize the running game which is what they are built to do.
If the pass rush is improved the quarterback will have less time to throw and odds are the revamped secondary will be more successful defending against the receivers.
Rogers is not a one man answer to the Browns defensive problems but you can see how making this one change can affect many aspects within the 3-4 defense in a positive way.
However, one word of caution, Rogers often gets gassed so the Browns are going to need a viable backup at defensive end.
The Browns still need depth on the defensive line but defensive tackle/end Brian Schaefring showed promise at the end of the year. He is 6'4" 295 and is a favorite of the coaching staff because he can play all three positions on the line in a pinch.
However the Browns need depth at defensive end as the other backups would be Kenyon Coleman, 6'3" 305lb veteran C.J. Mosley, who had a miserable year with just 18 tackles and no sacks, and three street free agent pick ups:
Derreck Robinson , 6'4" 289: Robinson is a defensive tackle who has been in the league for four years and has a grand total of 21 tackles.
Keith Grennan , 6'4" 298: Grennan is a defensive end with one year in the league with the San Diego Chargers and has one tackle on his resume.
Jonathan Lewis , 6'0 305: Lewis, a defensive tackle, was last in the league for one year with Arizona Cardinals and had four tackles in four games.
Not exactly an awe inspiring threesome.
Despite the fact the Browns didn't address the defensive line early in the draft, (they did draft 6'8" 300lb manchild Clifton Geathers in the sixth round but he is very raw) they did sign one undrafted free agent who could get some reps at defensive end if he makes the team:
Auston English is an defensive end/outside linebacker from Oklahoma who had 18 sacks in his career. English ran a 4.76 40 yard dash and has a 35 inch vertical leap. He is definitely explosive but he suffered injuries in each of the last three years.
English burst onto the scene with 9.5 sacks and 13 tackles-for-loss as a sophomore but his numbers slipped due to injuries and he finished his career with 18 sacks and 28 tackles-for-loss.
He suffered a fractured ankle in 2007, a sprained knee in 2008 and an undisclosed ankle injury that cost him the last four games of his college career.
The former Sooner defensive end was a high school running back who gained over 1200 yards and scored 18 tds as a senior.
The newest Brown was named All Big 12 First Team as a sophomore and is considered a natural fit for Rob Ryan's 3-4 defense as either a pass rushing defensive end or an outside linebacker.
English could be a definite gem among the free agents.
The Browns claimed 300lb tackle Titus Adams off waivers from the New England Patriots and are hoping for positive things from him according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Obviously, this is a best case, when Rogers is not suspended or traded, scenario. I really believe he can be a legitimate difference maker at defensive end while Rubin can capably man the nose tackle spot.
We just need quality depth and I hope the Browns make a move in the remaining time before training camp to acquire a quality, veteran defensive lineman. They need someone besides Coleman or Mosely to spell Schaefring if Rogers is suspended by the League for his gun case.
According to the Orange and Brown Report and their site staff on May 2, 2010, when asked if Rogers would be moved to end and would be back, Coach Eric Mangini replied,
“There’s nothing new in the legal process,” Mangini said. “We don’t know what’s going to happen in any situation, whether it be due to injury or whatever. That’s why we try to make the players versatile.
“I thought (Ahtyba) Rubin did a good job last year and made a strong case,” Mangini said. “Brian Schaefering did, as well, and we will look at the different options."