Is it a coincidence the Browns are ranked 29th in the NFL against the run.
Defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil disputes that report.
“No, I don’t pay attention to that stuff,” O’Neil said. “I pay attention to what our coaches say, what I see on film and how they’re grading out. If Phil or Rubes were playing the way those guys are ranking them, they wouldn’t be playing for us.”
The Browns are currently ranked 29th in the NFL in stopping the run, giving up 153.7 yards per game.
O’Neil said the Browns rush defense is more about the unit as a group, than as individuals.
“Most of our issues have happened at other places in the defense,” O’Neil said. “I’ve been happy with how Phil and ‘Rubes’ have played inside. I think that those guys would obviously like to make some more plays, but they’ve done a good job in the scheme so far.”
O’Neil talked about both players individually.
“I think Phil is having a good year,” O’Neil said. “You can’t get caught up in the stats. If he’s being disruptive inside and not allowing balls to wind back in the run game because he’s getting penetration or he’s eating two blocks at the point of attack so Karlos Dansby or Craig Robinson can be free over the top to make a tackle, that’s not going to show up on the stats, but he’s filling up his grade sheet with pluses.
“It’s been a small sample size that we’ve had so far – only three games we’ve had to play – but I’ve been happy with the play of Phil.”
Taylor has just six tackles through games, while Rubin has 10. Neither player has a sack or tackle for loss.
Pettine agreed with O’Neil that you can’t look at the stat sheet with defensive linemen in his scheme.
“(Taylor’s) had some solid performances for us,” Pettine said. “A lot of times it falls into that category of looking at the stat sheet. If a guy doesn’t do much, but we ask our defensive linemen to occupy blockers so linebackers can run free.
“A lot of times, especially in the run game, statistically they’re not going to show up,” he said. “Phil’s been solid for us, but just like everybody else, especially on the defensive side, has room for improvement.”
O’Neil also defended Rubin’s play.
“I still think (Rubin’s) one of the better run stopping defensive tackles in the NFL,” O’Neil said. “Like I said, he does a really good job at the point of attack taking to. Those guys have been pretty solid for us inside.”
Tate to Start: During the portion of practice open to the media, all 53 players on the active roster were on the field, including WR Marlon Moore, who missed Wednesday due to illness.
DL Desmond Bryant (glute/wrist) and RB Ben Tate (knee) were the only players listed as limited on the official injury report Thursday. TE Jordan Cameron (shoulder), LB Barkevious Mingo (shoulder), WR Marlon Moore (illness), DB Buster Skrine (thumb) were on the official injury report Wednesday, but only Bryant, Tate and Skrine were listed as limited.
Pettine said that Skrine didn’t suffer a setback with his thumb, but thought he might’ve been listed because he had a less restrictive cast put on his thumb.
Pettine said Tate is still on pace to start this week.
“Ben (Tate) will start, but that’s all we have at this point, and that’s assuming that he comes out of this week as we expect with the knee,” Pettine said. “Then, the other repetitions will be based on how the week went.”
Pettine said Tate has not had any setbacks in practice.
“Yeah, he’s on course to play,” he said. “I haven’t heard on any issue. I think he’ll be…I don’t know if we’ll give him the full rack today. I think he’ll probably be…I would guess he’d be still limited, but he’s going to take a pretty good chunk of the team reps.”
Keeping Up with Josh: Suspended WR Josh Gordon is in the building every day and Pettine said he’s doing well.
“Yes. I don’t see him much just because our paths don’t cross,” Pettine said. “He’s been in the team meetings, but I do know that we have him on a separate schedule because he can’t be out at practice. He’s not in the weight room when all our guys are. He’s kind of on the opposite schedule of everybody else, but he has been here.”
Pettine said that Gordon is not permitted on the practice field or in the weight room at the same time as other players.
“He has a schedule because we just have to make sure the weight room if staffed for when he’s going to be there and the other things that we’re doing with them, that we make sure that it is scheduled for him.”
Pettine said the best part is the structure of Gordon being allowed to be in the building.
“Yeah, we talked about that before,” he said. “Having that structure and being able to still have that interaction with his teammates and be here in the building and get his meals here and – like I said – a set workout for him. Just compare that to just kind of being off on your own. I’m sure that would get very lonely very quick. I would think anybody under suspension would welcome the ability to be in the building.”
Gordon was selling cars at Sarchione Auto Group near Rootstown before he was allowed back at the facility. Pettine was asked if Gordon still was working his day job.
“That I don’t know.”