(The OBR will do a position-by-position review of each of the Browns positions as the team heads toward the 2015 season. The eighth part we’ll look at the defensive line.)
Going in to the 2014 season, the Browns defensive line was considered the deepest and strongest unit on that side of the ball. The Browns made virtually no changes to the group that Mike Pettine and Ray Farmer inherited.
However, the group was plagued by injuries throughout the course of the season and four of the unit spent all or part of the season on injured reserve. All seven of the projected players missed at least a game and most multiple games.
Desmond Bryant—Bryant finished the season with 49 tackles, most on the defensive line. He also finished second on the team with five sacks. Bryant had a pass broken up and a fumble recovery. He missed one game early in the season after having wrist surgery.
Phil Taylor—Taylor suffered a knee injury and had arthroscopic surgery. After sitting out several games until the knee healed, Taylor re-injured the knee when he returned and was placed on injured reserve on 11/14. He finished the season with 10 tackles and one pass broken up in five games, including four starts.
Ahtyba Rubin—Rubin finished the season with 28 tackles, one sack, one pass broken up in 13 games. Rubin’s 100th game with the Browns might be his last with the Browns as he becomes an unrestricted free agent. Rubin has 375 career tackles, including 12 sacks in seven seasons with the Browns. Rubin finished the season on injured reserve.
Billy Winn— Winn finished the season with 31 tackles, one interception, one fumble recovery, two passes broken up in 13 games, including five starts.
John Hughes—Hughes started the season and then injured his knee and was placed on injured reserve, designated for return on 10/26. He returned for the season finale. In all, Hughes had 17 tackles in five games with a pass broken up.
Ishmaa’ily Kitchen—Kitchen proved to be a valuable reserve, who ended up starting three games before injuring his leg and being placed on injured reserve on 12/24. Kitchen had 43 tackles with three starts.
Armonty Bryant—After an outstanding preseason, Bryant earned a starting job before injuring his knee against the Steelers. He was placed on injured reserve on 10/14. Before being lost for the season, Bryant had 11 tackles and a sack in five games.
Sione Fua—Fua came over from waivers from the Broncos and played in 11 games with 12 tackles.
Jamie Meder—The Valley Forge graduate and Ashland University product had one tackle after being activated from the practice squad for the final game of the season. He was on the Browns practice squad after coming to the Browns from the Ravens practice squad.
Jacobbi McDaniel—McDaniel went between the practice squad and the active roster. He played in one game and had one pass broken up.
Christian Tupou—Tupou spent the season on the practice squad
Calvin Barnett—Barnett spent the entire season on the practice squad injured.
Summary: The Browns defensive line will get a boost with the return of a healthy group of players. Armonty Bryant and Phil Taylor willjoin Desmond Bryant up front. Winn and Hughes are goodplayers, who help in the rotation. If the Browns decide to let Rubin leave via free agency, they will need someone to take his place.
The Browns had a lot of depth on the line last season and it still proved to not be enough as Taylor, Armonty Bryant, Hughes and Kitchen were all on injured reserve. The group needs to improve on stopping the run and creating a push to let the linebackers get to the quarterback. The biggest help for the unit will be if they can return healthy.
Here are some of the unrestricted free agents scheduled to be available in free agency:
Ndamukung Suh (Lions), Nick Fairley (Lions), B.J. Raji (Packers), Jason Pierre-Paul (Giants), Tommy Kelly (Cardinals), Anthony Spencer (Cowboys), Terrance Knighton (Broncos), Jared Odrick (Dolphins), Dwan Edwards (Panthers), Colin Cole (Panthers), Kevin Williams (Seahawks), Tyson Alualu (Jaguars), Da’Quan Bowers (Buccaneers), Alan Branch (Patriots), Alex Carrington (Rams) and Jerry Hughes (Bills),
(Next Up: Our final review will be on the specialists)