Is Rubin the new Vickers?

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You can’t have too many good d-linemen.

The news yesterday was that Star Lotulelei is coming in for a private workout in Berea.  He joins Ansah, Floyd, D. Jones, Jordan, Mingo, and Richardson.  In other words, every top rated d-lineman in the draft will have visited Berea.  It’s hard to see this list of visitors without concluding that the Browns aren’t done ‘fixing’ the defensive line.

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Close your eyes.  Picture the 2012 Browns.

Who did you piss off in your 50 starts where you played hard for the NFL’s most anemic offense?

Assess the weak links in need of immediate improvement.

Did you come up Ahtyba Rubin or Jabaal Sheard?

No, me neither.

So what in the wide wide world of sports is going on here with this defensive line obsession?

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Kanick is having a hard time reconciling this.

With the Bryant signing coupled with these d-lineman visits, we’ve been hearing a lot of conventional wisdom in the last month telling us we can’t have too many good defensive linemen.  Hearing it from reporters we respect (Sobo), radio talk show guys (Adam Gerstenhaber), and Jimmy Haslam.

After awhile you turn into Ralphie on Santa’s lap because it has that same patronizing feel:

Santa:  How about a nice… football?  

Ralphie:  [Nods.]  Football.

Santa:  Ok, get him out of here…

ME:  NO, NO.  I WANT A STARTING CORNERBACK WHO IS FAST AND TALL AND AN INSIDE LINEBACKER WHO CAN CRUSH AND COVER AND A GUARD WHO IS NOT SEAN LAUVAO AND A TIGHT END THAT CREATES PROBLEMS IN THE SEAM AND AN INTIMIDATING FREE SAFETY!

You’ll shoot your eye out kid.

But even with one eye, I can see that with Taylor, Rubin, Bryant, Hughes, Winn, Sheard we’re good on the d-line.

I can also see that with salary cap and roster size limits one can, IN FACT, have too many defensive linemen.

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We don’t have depth at d-line?

And not for nothing experts-due-varying-measures-of-deference-from-amateur-bloggers:  WE HAVE DEPTH!!  Did you see John Hughes?  Billy Winn?  We just blew a third of the fabled Banner FA Budget on the redundant DT that is Desmond Bryant.

Honestly.  We’re set on the d-line.

Sheard Rubin Taylor. Just needed one more.

We explored this issue in February:

We were one defensive end from having a that elite front four. How do you know it’s a great front four? When you know all their names. We all know Rubin-Taylor-Sheard. I don’t think I’m out on a limb saying they’re all top 5 at their position. Add in Hughes and Winn who can keep them fresh (and who are pretty fine linemen in their own right) and the line creates problems. We just needed one more.

THE 2012 BROWNS’ FRONT FOUR WAS THE STRONGEST PART OF THE TEAM.

THE 2012 BROWNS’ FRONT FOUR WAS THE FIRST BROWNS’ COMPONENT THAT COULD BE CALL A TOP-5 ANYTHING SINCE… SINCE… SINCE THE DIXON-MINNIFIELD CB TANDEM. 

The six man d-line rotation of Rubin-Taylor-Hughes-Winn-Sheard-Rucker is the best in league. This is because it’s deep enough where the DTs are always fresh. Moving to a 3-4 by definition de-emphasizes the strongest d-line in the league and emphasizes the a relative weakness.

It makes no sense.

–Kanick, 2/8/2013

We didn’t like mucking around with the strength of the team for the sake of the implementation of a new DC’s system.  Little did we know then that the plan seems to be the entire dismantling this strength with only inexpensive Taylor and Hughes left standing.

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The second best rush defense in the NFL.

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Does not tell the story.

I’ve been sailing through this analysis assuming that we all accept the premise that with Sheard, Taylor, Rubin (plus Hughes, Winn) the d-line and specifically the interior d-line was a strength.  But at 119 rush yards/game, one might question that assertion.

Let’s look a little closer.

Prior to the bye week, there was not one game where Taylor and Rubin played together.  Over that span of games, the Browns allowed 132 rush yards/game.  For a frame of reference, that would be 26th in the league if it were the year-long average.

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THIS tells the story.

However, in weeks ten through seventeen, Taylor and Rubin played together.  Over that time period, the Browns allowed 89.7* rush yards/game.  That rates out as SECOND BEST in the league.

Coincidence?  I think not.

If anyone has a better metric to measure the effectiveness of an interior d-line, I’m all ears.  Until then, I say again:

Rubin + Taylor = second best run defense in the NFL.

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Which brings me back to:

Exactly wtf is the problem that is supposed to be fixed here?

Are we trying to be the #1 rush defense?

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The plan looks like a mix of ‘You can’t have too many defensive linemen and we really hate Sheard and Rubin.’

Have you noticed the cast of characters being invited in for private workouts in Berea?  Just looking at the private workouts (courtesy of Walter Football):

Ezekiel Ansah, DL, BYU (PRI), Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia (PRI), Matt Barkley, QB, USC (PRI), Jonathan Cooper, OL, North Carolina (PRI), Jonathan Cyprien, DB, Florida International (PRI), Gavin Escobar, TE, San Diego State (PRI), Eric Fisher, OL, Central Michigan (PRI), Sharrif Floyd, DL, Florida (PRI), Datone Jones, DL, UCLA (PRI), Don Jones, DB, Arkansas State (PRI), Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia (PRI) (COM), Dion Jordan, DL, Oregon (PRI),  Kyle Long, OL, Oregon (PRI)Star Lotulelei, DL, Utah (PRI), E.J. Manuel, QB, Florida State (PRI), Tyrann Mathieu, DB, LSU (PRI), Dee Milliner, DB, Alabama (PRI), Barkevious Mingo, DL, LSU (PRI), Ryan Nassib, QB, Syracuse (PRI), Sheldon Richardson, DL, Missouri (PRI), Logan Ryan, DB, Rutgers (PRI), Matt Scott, QB, Arizona (PRI), Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia (PRI), Kenny Stills, WR, Oklahoma (PRI), D.J. Swearinger, DB, South Carolina (PRI), Larry Warford, OL, Kentucky (PRI).

When you strike through all the non-sixth-overall candidate it shakes out like this:  sixteen first round visitors, seven are defensive linemen.  Moreover, every defensive lineman with a first round grade has been in.  Except Bjoern Werner (and Margus Hunt.  Y U NO HAVE MARGUS VISIT?).

It’s hard to look at this list of visitors without divining a plan.  The plan sure looks like a mix of you can’t have too many defensive linemen and we really hate Sheard and Rubin.  Especially Rubin with his 2014 expiring $8,000,000 cap hit.

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Is Rubin the new Vickers?

A couple years ago, we had a warrior on the Browns.  A guy who knew his role and executed it with gusto.  No complaints.  A ‘football player’ in the purest sense.

Enter a new front office bent on making their mark.  Without and seeming consideration of locker room presence or leadership or player personality, they determined that the skill set and/or salary didn’t fit with their system and dumped him.  (Adam the Bull, if you’re reading this:  watch the interview below and see whether you can still maintain the dismissive tone about his loss.)

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=37mQ_YryUnw?rel=0&w=560&h=315]

[DAMN I MISS VICKERS.]

We know how the non-signing of Vickers turned out.  He was ineffectively replaced with Owen Marecic and the team was poorer on multiple levels.  Not only had we lost an excellent lead blocker, we lost a guy who knew his role and loved it.  You simply can’t tell me guys with attitudes like Vickers don’t improve the team just through their enthusiasm.

Welp… consider Ahtyba Rubin.

Rubin was a sixth round pick out of Iowa State in 2008.  By the end of 2009, he was the starting Nose Tackle unseating expensive waste of space that was Shaun Rogers.  His emergence let the Browns cut Rogers.  Without any bitching, Rubin moved from NT to DT.  After starting five games in 2009, he started every game in 2010 and 2011 before missing three starts last year.

Maybe my bar is too low.  But racking up 50 starts for the 2009-2012 Browns and not mailing in any of them merits some special acclaim.  I know he’s paid well to do this.. but so was Rogers.  So was Usama Young.  Dimitri Patterson.  Seneca Wallace.  Playing for three head coaches, moving to your third DC, suffering your third defensive system change… just playing defense for a team than that has averaged under 16 points per game** in the five years he’s been here.

Buster+Skrine+Cleveland+Browns+v+New+York+QYYvAWcpvonx

Your starting CB.

Rubin deserves a medal.

Instead, all the signs point toward kicking him out the door.

Beware Brownies:  Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

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Meanwhile, the starting CB remains as shown to the right.

Here’s hoping Berea has read the best-case scenario plan and that all the d-linemen visits are smokescreens.

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* I have deducted the 80 yard Jamaal Charles run from this total.  I will not penalize the d-line for TJ Ward falling down and Usama Young’s geometry issues.

** The league scoring AVERAGE over the last five years is 22 points/game.  Say again:  that is the AVERAGE.

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Appendix:  Rubin’s Cap Hit for this year and next.

I’ll leave it to you whether you think Rubin is worth what he’s being paid.  I call it fair.

2013 Cap Hits for DTs.

2014 Cap Hit for DTs.

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  • dg736

    Man, I miss Vickers too – he and Hillis were fantastic for one year. I’ll never understand the blind spots this FO has for or against certain players, I still say they could have signed Hillis right after 2010 to keep him in house at his peak. Part of the team’s job (and head coach’s) is to corral the good guys who need a little head-straightening and make sure they stay happy. Shurmur was not the guy and evidently neither was Mangini…..only in Cleveland, we’re eternally teased by what might have been. And I DO NOT trust Banner or Haslam and especially not Lombardi…Banner putting ML in cold storage had to be the oddest thing since Mangini sent Kokinis out for coffee….permanently. WHAT IS GOING ON UP THERE???

  • BilliardsBum

    A couple of thoughts here. I was really upset when I heard about the switch out of a 4-3 base because the interior of the line and the line as a unit was the real strength of the team. Now that has been minimized somewhat, and an emphasis was put on our LB corps, which took the acquisition of Kruger, Groves, and at least one player from the upcoming draft to go from shoddy to good. OK fine (again). Now, I really hope that Rubin stays because what I am not fine with is trading out very good players who are getting paid commensurately with their skills. I am not saying that I expect this to happen, but I will say that it would not surprise me either. As far as visiting with so many defensive line prospects, It is their job to cover all of the bases, and there is a real possibility that the best player available at 6 could be a defensive lineman. The question then becomes, “what does the team do if it finds itself in that situation?”. If the guy stands out head and shoulders above the other choices the team should grab him. It is not ideal, but elite talent is what the team needs.

    • agreed on all points.

      i think what i’m a little peeved about too is that they’re kinda pissing on our backs and telling us it’s raining. specifically when haslam tells us that sheard is staying and playing linebacker. hmm? if we draft jordan or mingo i have to think they’re not going to be on the bench.

      i tend to think lotulelei is the best player in the draft. but cripes, i dont want to take him because.. damn.. buster skrine.

      • BilliardsBum

        I understand your worries about the CB lineup, but you might have to live with a stopgap from FA or a later round pick for a year. I, myself, am sick of new regimes coming in and seemingly trying to show how they are smarter than the last group. It is like Groundhog Day with this team. What it really needs is some stability, and I am hoping (again) that this group will bring that.

        What is really going to be interesting, is the top ten of the draft. I have read a multitude of scenarios with a lot of variance in predictions. My guesses are that a QB (probably Geno Smith) will go top three, no guards will be take top 15, and that the 49ers trade up (maybe even with the Browns after an initial trade back with the Phins).

  • i would like to think that, if this is just due diligence and smoke screen, that they have let ahtyba know the plan and told him he is a valued member of the team today and in the future.

    unfortunately, i dont get the sense that these soft skills are strength of the new regime.

    stipulated i work in a different business and so do you. but still think this truth is relate-able: anytime your employer publicly interviews clones of you who are five years younger and cost a fraction of your salary, it is demoralizing.

  • Rubin is all hustle and has already played in three different defenses. He’s relatively young and with the exception of last year, has stayed healthy AND has played hurt. While really good players like Marshal Yanda can get the better of him, he’s one of the best DT’s in the league.

    So – naturally – having said all this: Rubin probably deserves a lot better than Cleveland.

    • Meaning….Rubin deserves better than to be made of an example of by this Cleveland FO.

    • really glad to read this and affirm i’m not the only one who thinks this. without naming names, ive been reading some bits and pieces that seem to undersell what he’s done.

      that said, it’s fair to question whether his great play is ‘market value.’ going to update post with this and this.

      but in looking at 2013 cap hits among DTs.. i would say rubin is pretty fairly. not cheap, but WTH… he’s a warrior, imo.

  • Gary Collins

    Didn’t somebody say we need a 5technique de to make it all work? Isn’t Bryant a 5 technique end? Didnt we just trad usuma bin young for him? Hard to see the sky falling there, bra.

    Maybe Belechick wants the 6 overall, Rubin, and a night with t**y g****i’s mom for Ryan mallet and they’re just being prudent.

  • Lennie Ford

    Frowns’ assessment is the only one that makes sense: it’s Wahoo’s fault. How else explain why those who run the Browns spend their time destroying the few goods things that have been constructed out of all the opportunities?

  • I think just because of the way Banner did business in Philly that anyone with a high cap number is already on borrowed time, regardless of their skill level…I’m looking at you, Joe Thomas, and then wincing when I think of the state of Philadelphia’s offensive line over the past half decade (or more).

    Oy vey this could get ugly, all so some people can prove how smart they are.

    /rubs rabbits foot
    //repeats “I hope Im wrong”

    • i dont know how to rate banner’s cap policy in philly because he (seems to be) the guy who signed samuel/59m; andrews/40m; nnamdi/60m. and in his time there he let trotter (twice), spikes, watters walk off and be productive elsewhere. his record is hard to decipher.

      this may be a post for another day, but i’m really trying to figure out where the cap money saved this year might be spent in 2014. because after 2014, whatever amount we’re under this year evaporates. all i can come up with is:

      smokin jay cutler.
      null

      • That is a scary thought. If only because Jay Cutler’s “pouty face” looks exactly like my neighbors six year old son when he doesn’t get what he wants/gets yelled at/ whatever makes children pout.

        Although, I have heard rumors (read: wild assed speculation based upon nothing) Trestman and Cutler may not be long for each other, so there might be something to your supposition.