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Thursday, October 30, 2008
'Big Baby' coming up huge in Cleveland

By James Walker
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

BEREA, Ohio -- How ironic is it that the biggest player on the Cleveland Browns' roster this year is nicknamed "Big Baby?"

The Shaun Rogers Factor
Cleveland's defense is improved this year, holding opponents to just 18 points per game.
GamesTacklesSacks
7 36 4
*Also has one blocked field goal

But nose tackle Shaun Rogers has been all man for the Browns this season. He had arguably the most dominating performances by a defensive lineman this season with nine-tackles, one sack and one blocked field goal last weekend in a 23-17 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

A nose tackle in Cleveland's 3-4 defense is not expected to make that many plays. Rogers commands double teams on nearly every down and has to fight through two -- and sometimes three defenders. Yet Rogers' combination of power and athleticism has him leading the Browns (3-4) in sacks (four) and second in tackles (36) as they approach the midpoint of the season.

"That's pretty rare," Browns coach Romeo Crennel said. "I think a guy like Shaun comes around once in a lifetime basically. You just don't find guys that have that kind of size, quickness and speed every day. I am glad we got him."

On Sunday, "Big Baby" will be the problem of the Baltimore Ravens. In their first meeting, a 28-10 win for the Ravens, Baltimore was the more physical team on its way to 151 rushing yards. Expect the Ravens (4-3) to try to insert their will again on both sides of the football and try control the clock.

Cleveland's run defense has struggled for most of the season, but it should improve as Rogers continues to learn the new scheme.

"I'm just trying to get better every day," Rogers said. "I don't know what the limit is in this defense, so I'm not going to put a ceiling on it. I'm still in the learning phase, and I'm going to just continue to grow."

The Browns acquired Rogers in a trade with the Detroit Lions this offseason for cornerback Leigh Bodden and a third-round pick. Rogers developed a reputation in Detroit as a bad apple, but he has not been a problem in Cleveland.

With a motivated and happy Rogers as the anchor, the Browns are holding opponents to a respectable 18 points per game.

"I've seen situations occur before when I was in New England. There were a couple of guys we had up there were added to the team and were supposed to be 'problem kids' and they turned out to be really great because of the change of scenery," Crennel said. "Corey Dillon, running back, he was supposed to be a problem and maybe he was where he was before. When he got to our place he was a model citizen and a productive football player for us.

"I know that sometimes a change of scenery can impact a player. From the time [Rogers] has walked in the door, he has been a good citizen and a good football player."