While the Cleveland Browns were rumored to have interest in a number of different nose tackles who were available during this year’s free agency period, the team did not participate in the league’s scramble for the interior linemen. Instead, the Browns watched players like Dan Williams sign elsewhere, while losing their own nose tackle, Ahtyba Rubin.
The team’s lack of activity to fill Rubin’s position has left a question mark on their depth chart.
Part of the answer became clearer today, as Browns head coach Mike Pettine told reporters at the annual owner’s meeting in sunny Phoenix that defensive lineman Phil Taylor will be moving to nose tackle in the upcoming season. Ishmaa’ily Kitchen, who played about a third of the nose tackle snaps last season, will back up Taylor.
In his four starts prior to injury in 2014, Taylor started at left defensive end, taking 133 snaps before going out with a a knee injury. Overall, Taylor didn’t grade out well at the position last year, per ProFootballFocus.com, although anecdotally the Browns run defense didn’t seem as strong after his injury.
Nose tackle might be a better position for the big lineman, allowing him to focus on his ability to occupy blockers and take up space rather than demanding the type of athleticism required as a three-technique end.
As Taylor moves inside, Randy Starks appears to be the likely candidate to move to Taylor’s previous spot.
Pettine was upbeat about Taylor’s potential to return from his knee injury, saying that the lineman is “well on pace to be full go for us”.
Various reports suggest that the Browns may not be done at the nose tackle position, as they’ve displayed an interest in players like NT Danny Shelton leading up to the draft.