BEREA, Ohio—One of the bright spots for the Browns has been the emergence of Ahtyba Rubin. The third year nose tackle from Iowa State has entrenched himself in the middle of the Browns defense and has been one of the reasons the Browns have been much improved against the run.
He has started just 12 games in his NFL career, including the first seven games at nose tackle this season. He started the final five games of the 2009 season when Shaun Rogers broke his ankle.
"Rubin has really established himself as an emerging young player," Eric Mangini said. "He's really stood up and he's built on the opportunity this year."
Yet, the 24-year old Rubin admitted he had doubts when he first came to the Browns as a sixth-round draft choice in 2008.
"At the beginning I doubted myself coming into the NFL and a new system," he said. "The faster speed, but after a while you get confidence in yourself. Now, I feel I can go out and compete with anybody."
Mangini really likes the way the 6-2, 330-pound Rubin hustles to the ball.
"He made a tackle 15 yards down field (against the Saints) and typically, you don't see that coming from a guy his size," Mangini said. "I'm really pleased with him.
"I've only known him a short amount of time, but a lot of his plays come on pursuit," Mangini said. "It doesn't matter what your ability is, it's about effort and he makes so many plays on effort. You see it a lot every week in the NFL. He's a great example of what you can do, if you want to."
Rubin said he learned from a young age to run to the ball.
"I've had that hustle to the ball mentality since I was a kid," he said. "I try to use the hustle to the ball as a strength and I have carried that over to the pros.
"There's just something in me that makes me want to get to the ball."
Rubin makes a lot of tackles from the nose tackle position. He had 14 tackles in the last two games. Many times the nose tackle is spending his time occupying blockers in the 3-4 scheme. He is currently fifth on the team in tackles with 33. He also has an interception and two passes broken up.
"My third year in the league I'm more comfortable after watching film and feeling more comfortable with myself," he said.
With the season-ending injury to Robaire Smith and Shaun Rogers being able to play more each week, Rubin's play has allowed the Browns to use Rogers on the outside at end.
"Shaun's a great player, a great penetrator," Rubin said. "He's a big, big mass in the middle and anytime we're out there together, we can make things happen. I just want to keep on making plays."