NFL Nation: Ahtyba Rubin

Pro and con: Steelers' no-huddle offense

November, 22, 2013
PITTSBURGH -- Todd Haley did not tip his hand regarding the topic that has dominated talk at Pittsburgh Steelers' headquarters this week and more than a few Western Pennsylvania establishments that serve adult beverages.

But the question had to be posed to Haley, and it dealt with whether or not he would be more inclined to run the no-huddle offense from the start of the Browns game given the success the Steelers had with it in beating the Lions.

[+] EnlargeBen Roethlisberger
AP Photo/Gene J. PuskarBen Roethlisberger and the Steelers jumped out to a 14-0 lead on the Lions using the no-huddle.
“I am not going to divulge anything like that,” the Steelers offensive coordinator said with a laugh. “Sorry.”

What makes it just as difficult to project how much the Steelers will use the no-huddle offense against the Browns is a handful of variables as well as this: Arguments can be made for the Steelers to go no-huddle a lot in Cleveland or hardly use it at all.

The case for: The Steelers opened in a no-huddle offense against the Lions to keep Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley from settling into the game, and they also wanted to try to wear out the mammoth tackles.

The Browns are just as stout up front as the Lions, and nose tackle Phil Taylor is better than Suh or Fairley. The Browns also like to play a lot of defensive linemen and not huddling would limit how much Cleveland could substitute.

The most obvious reason for going with the no-huddle a lot is that Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger thrives in it, and it may be the best way to attack a Browns defense that probably isn't going to give up a lot of rushing yards.

The case against: Rain didn't hamper the Steelers' ability to run the no-huddle against the Lions. Snow and the wind that whips off Lake Erie may be a different story. If the weather is as bad, as expected, the last thing the Steelers need to do is run a hurry-up attack that could leave them prone to turnovers.

The Steelers committed eight turnovers in a 20-14 loss at Cleveland last season, and their top priority Sunday should be hanging onto the football.

Haley lauded the communication that took place among the players and coaches against the Lions, but that becomes increasingly more difficult when playing on the road and in a stadium where fans boo and bark at the visiting team.

Haley says: “I thought Detroit was real good (on defense) but I think this team's better. It starts inside with Taylor and (defensive end Ahtyba) Rubin. The front seven in general, I think, is probably the best front seven we've seen. We've got our work cut out for us because as we move into late November and December you've got to be able to run the ball effectively when they know you're running it.”

My take: the Steelers should use the no-huddle sparingly against the Browns. The weather and crowd increase the difficulty of running it effectively, and it's not like the Steelers are going to need a lot of points to win a shootout with journeyman Jason Campbell starting for the Browns.

If I'm coach Mike Tomlin I lean toward a more conventional approach on offense and lean on my defense and special teams. Make Campbell beat you; don't do it to yourself.
The rumor of the Cleveland Browns trading for New England Patriots backup quarterback Ryan Mallett won't go away. Whether you're for or against this move, everyone can probably agree that it's getting to the point where the Browns need to make a decision on which quarterback to add this offseason.

[+] EnlargeRyan Mallett
AP Photo/Jim MahoneyRyan Mallett was rated as the top quarterback in the 2011 draft by Browns GM Mike Lombardi.
As reporters try to connect the dots on how this deal could happen, one popular theory is Matt Cassel returning to be the backup for the Patriots, who then can trade Mallett to the Browns. But Cassel, who was released by the Chiefs on Thursday, could be going to the Vikings, according to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.

Another scenario has the Browns trading a defensive lineman for Mallett. Tony Grossi of ESPN Radio in Cleveland believes the free-agent signing of Desmond Bryant would allow the Browns to shop Phil Taylor or Ahtyba Rubin in a package deal for Mallett. It's true that Patriots coach Bill Belichick collects defensive linemen like many people hoard bobbleheads. And, while the Browns would prefer to unload Rubin and his $6 million salary this year, Taylor is the more valuable commodity.

Still, the Browns don't feel like they have to make a move involving their defensive line. Browns chief executive officer Joe Banner said they can use all six defensive linemen on the team.

"There’s no reason to think we have an abundance at this point," Banner said. "It’s a crucial area as we look at the team. We feel good about where we are at numbers-wise.”

If the Browns don't get Mallett, they have to find a quarterback somewhere. Owner Jimmy Haslam said there is going to be a quarterback competition this year, but the Browns have yet to bring in someone to compete against Brandon Weeden.

Alex Smith was traded to Kansas City. Matt Moore re-signed with Miami. And, to the delight of many Browns fans, Derek Anderson re-signed with the Panthers. So, what's left? Ryan Fitzpatrick was released by the Bills, and Jason Campbell is still out there in free agency. By the weekend, Kevin Kolb will be available because the Cardinals aren't going to pay his $2 million roster bonus on March 17.

If the Browns pass on all of them, the talk of a possible trade for Mallett will continue up until the draft.
When you heard about the free-agent interior defensive linemen, the list included popular names such as Richard Seymour and Cullen Jenkins. But Desmond Bryant -- not to be confused with Dez Bryant -- will make more of an impact than both of them this season.

Bryant agreed to a five-year, $34 million contract with the Cleveland Browns on Tuesday, according to The Plain Dealer. While the Browns' first move of free agency can be debated, the team's second one is shrewd.

At 27 years old, Bryant is one of those under-the-radar players who has the chance to be a game-changer on the Browns' new 3-4 defense. He spent four seasons on an underachieving Oakland Raiders defense, but he always showed great tenacity and a high motor.

The red flag on Bryant was his arrest last month in Miami on a misdemeanor charge of criminal mischief. The positives with the 6-foot-6, 311-pound lineman out of Harvard outweigh this incident.

Bryant's reputation is being a run-stuffer, but he can get collapse the middle of the offensive line. According to Pro Football Focus, his 35 total pressures ranked him fourth among all qualifying defensive tackles.

It's uncertain what effect this signing has on the future of Browns interior lineman Ahtyba Rubin. All that is known now is the Browns added two pieces to the new defense's front seven with Bryant and outside linebacker Paul Kruger, and it's only the first day of free agency.
Cleveland Browns fullback Owen Marecic was a surprise inactive for Sunday's game against the San Diego Chargers, putting a question mark at that position. There's a chance that the Browns could use tight end Alex Smith at fullback or go with single-back formations.

Starting defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin (calf) will be sidelined for the second time in three weeks.

Here are the Browns inactives: DT Ahtyba Rubin (calf), WR Mohamed Massaquoi (hamstring), CB Dimitri Patterson (ankle), RB Brandon Jackson, S Tashaun Gipson, FB Owen Marecic, and OL Jarrod Shaw.

Browns' Ahtyba Rubin is inactive

October, 14, 2012
The injuries for the Cleveland Browns defense continues Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals. Defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin sustained a lower leg injury last week and has not practiced. He is being replaced by rookie John Hughes.

Cleveland will also be without outside linebacker Scott Fujita. He missed time this week with what the team has listed as a shoulder/neck problem on its injury report. Rookie James-Michael Johnson is taking over for Fujita.

Here are the inactives:

BROWNS: WR Mohamed Massaquoi, CB Dimitri Patterson, FS Tashaun Gipson, OT Ryan Miller, DT Ahtyba Rubin, WR Travis Benjamin, LB Scott Fujita.

BENGALS: WR Mohamed Sanu, CB Jason Allen, CB Dre Kirkpatrick, S George Iloka, DT Brandon Thompson, WR Ryan Whalen and TE Richard Quinn.

Wrap-up: Giants 41, Browns 27

October, 7, 2012
Thoughts on the Cleveland Browns' 41-27 loss at the New York Giants:

What it means: The Browns remain winless on the season, dropping to 0-5 for the first time since they returned to the NFL in 1999. If it matters at this point, they fall four games behind the division-leading Ravens. Cleveland extended its NFL-worst losing streak to 11 games, which ties a franchise record. The Browns have now dropped 10 in a row on the road.

Turning point: The Browns held a 14-0 lead -- their biggest margin on an opponent this year -- and still found a way to trail by halftime. How does that happen? The Browns turned the ball over twice in a matter of 2 1/2 minutes, which caused a 17-10 lead to turn into a 24-17 deficit. A Brandon Weeden interception and a Josh Cribbs fumble on a kickoff return led to two touchdowns.

Defense in pain: The Browns have more concerns than giving up 502 yards to the Giants. Three starters were injured for a defense that was already playing without two injured starters (Phil Taylor and Chris Gocong). Middle linebacker D'Qwell Jackson left in the second quarter with a concussion and cornerback Dimitri Patterson suffered an ankle injury on the second-half kickoff. Defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin also left the locker room in a walking boot.

Questioning the play call: With the Browns up 17-10, they faced a third-and-1 at the Giants' 25-yard line. Instead of running the ball, the Browns chose to pass and Weeden was intercepted. Rookie running back Trent Richardson, who finished with 81 yards rushing, had gained 4 and 5 yards on the previous two plays.

What happened to Gordon? Rookie receiver Josh Gordon helped the Browns to a 14-0 lead with a 62-yard touchdown catch from Weeden. But Gordon disappeared for most of the game after that big play. His only other catch was a 20-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.

What's next: The Browns go home to play the Cincinnati Bengals (3-2) for the second time in a five-week span.
Phil Taylor's pectoral injury could force a rookie drafted two weeks ago into the Cleveland Browns' starting lineup.

If Taylor is out for an extended period -- the official diagnosis is expected Monday -- the Browns will likely turn to one of two rookies (Billy Winn or John Hughes), or returning backup Scott Paxson.

Winn, a sixth-round pick, is the most intriguing candidate. He was projected as a third- or fourth-round pick, but slide into a later round because of questionable work ethic. At Boise State, he was known for his quickness and ability to penetrate gaps.

Another candidate is Hughes, a third-round pick from Cincinnati. He's more of a space-filler, and was earmarked as a backup for Ahtyba Rubin. But the Browns might put him in the battle for the job.

If the Browns want more experience, they will look to Paxson. After stints with the Packers and Steelers, Paxson played all 16 games in his first season with the Browns and recorded 21 tackles.

The 2012 draft class was supposed to have an immediate impact on offense after Cleveland selected running back Trent Richardson, quarterback Brandon Weeden, and offensive tackle Mitchell Schwartz with its first three picks. Now, the Browns might need a rookie on the defensive side to step up.
Outside linebacker Keith Rivers, who was traded today to the New York Giants for a fifth-round pick, wasn't the only disappointment in the Bengals' 2008 draft class.

Cincinnati failed to find a long-term impact player out of its 10 picks that year. Rivers, the ninth overall pick in the 2008 draft, finished with the most starts in this class with 33, and the only players that remain with the team are two backups: defensive tackle Pat Sims (third round), and offensive tackle Anthony Collins (fourth round).

Wide receiver Jerome Simpson (second round) produced a career-high 50 catches last season as the team's No. 2 wide receiver, but he now faces 15 days in a Kentucky jail after pleading guilty to a drug charge. The Bengals haven't ruled out bringing him back.

Wide receiver Andre Caldwell (third round) showed promise in 2009 when he made a career-best 51 catches. But he followed that up with a combined 61 receptions the past two seasons. Caldwell signed this offseason with the Denver Broncos.

There were two players -- defensive tackle Jason Shirley (fifth round) and safety Corey Lynch (sixth round) -- who played a handful of games for Cincinnati before going elsewhere for reserve roles. Shirley played last season for Carolina, and Lynch was with Tampa Bay.

The last three players taken in the Bengals' 2008 draft -- tight end Matt Sherry (sixth), defensive end Angelo Craig (seventh) and wide receiver Mario Urritia (seventh) -- never played a regular-season game for Cincinnati and are out of the league.

In comparison, the Ravens drafted quarterback Joe Flacco and running back Ray Rice that season, and the Pittsburgh Steelers selected running back Rashard Mendenhall. Even the Browns, who had limited picks after trading for Shaun Rogers and Corey Williams, got underrated defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin in the sixth round.
PITTSBURGH -- Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger limped back onto the field to start the second half against the Cleveland Browns after X-rays to his injured ankle were negative. His left ankle is taped.

Roethlisberger was helped off the field with about six minutes left in the second quarter and didn't place any weight on his left leg. Charlie Batch was ineffective in finishing the first half for the Steelers, failing to complete his two pass attempts.

On his first few passes of the third quarter, Roethlisberger was throwing off his back foot. He couldn't step into his throws because that required putting pressure on the left leg. He was taken down on the first drive of the third quarter by Browns defensive lineman Ahtyba Rubin and needed help getting back to his feet.

AFC North Week 1 X factors

September, 8, 2011
Everyone is familiar with star players like Troy Polamalu, Ed Reed, Peyton Hillis and Cedric Benson. But who will be the lesser-known X factors in these Week 1 matchups?

Here are some additional players who could make an impact Sunday's games in the AFC North:

Lee Evans, WR, Baltimore Ravens

Experience: Eighth season

Analysis: Baltimore traded for Evans to add speed to its receiving corps. Pittsburgh and other teams often stacked the box against Baltimore's offense. Opponents didn't respect the Ravens' ability to throw deep. That's where Evans can be a difference-maker. He has the speed to blow by defenders for long gains. If Evans makes a big play or two this weekend, that increases Baltimore's chances against Pittsburgh.

Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers

Experience: Second season

Analysis: The last time Brown played the Ravens, he got behind Baltimore corner Lardarius Webb for a huge catch in the playoffs to set up Pittsburgh's game-winning touchdown. Brown has carried that momentum into the preseason. He's been Pittsburgh's most productive receiver in exhibition games and won the job as the team's third receiver. The Ravens have to account for Brown, in addition to Hines Ward, Mike Wallace and Heath Miller.

Leon Hall, CB, Cincinnati Bengals

Experience: Fifth season

Analysis: The high-profile matchup between Bengals receiver A.J. Green and Browns No. 1 corner Joe Haden will get a lot of press. But in contrast, Hall will be asked to shut down Cleveland's passing game, led by quarterback Colt McCoy. Hall recently received a big contract extension. He would like nothing better than to make a few big plays against Cleveland in Week 1 to justify his pay raise.

Ahtyba Rubin, DT, Cleveland Browns

Experience: Fourth season

Analysis: The Bengals are not hiding the fact they want to run the football. Look for Benson to get a lot of carries to test the young defensive line of the Browns. That's where Rubin comes in. He's the only proven player on Cleveland's front four. Rubin will team with rookie first-round pick Phil Taylor as the biggest pieces to Cleveland's run defense. If Rubin is disruptive to Cincinnati's rushing attack, that will go a long way toward stopping the Bengals' offense.
BEREA, Ohio -- On the first day of practice, Cleveland Browns rookie defensive tackle Phil Taylor is already on the first team.

Despite missing four days of training camp in a contract dispute, Cleveland wasted no time getting its first-round pick acclimated to the starting lineup. Taylor was lined up opposite fellow defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin with Cleveland's No. 1 defense Thursday during the team’s morning walkthrough.

[+] EnlargePhil Taylor
Jason Miller/US PresswirePhil Taylor, Cleveland's first-round pick in April's draft, is practicing with the first-team defense.
If the Browns have it their way, that won't change anytime soon. Taylor is expected to be a vital cog in Cleveland's new 4-3 defense this season.

"I feel great just to be out there with the guys practicing and learning a new defense," Taylor said. "I've played in the 4-3 my whole college career. So it's not that hard."

Taylor was the last rookie to sign in the AFC North. The Browns and Taylor’s representation bickered over the fourth year being guaranteed. Cleveland eventually relented.

Taylor had weight issues in college but looks lean and in shape. He says he weighs 338 pounds, which is around his ideal playing weight. Rubin weighs 315 pounds, which makes for 653 pounds of beef in the front of Cleveland's defense.

"I'm happy he's here," Browns middle linebacker D'Qwell Jackson said of Taylor. "I told him 'You take care of me and I will take care of you.'"

Rubin, 25, is already one of the young, up-and-coming defensive tackles in the NFL. If Taylor, the No. 21 overall pick, also pans out, Cleveland could have two young anchors on defense for years to come.

"We're focused on stopping the run and at the same time trying to get to the passer," Rubin said. "I think Phil is a good pass-rusher. So we will wait and see what happens. I'm excited."
Phil TaylorJerry Lai/US PresswireCleveland acquired additional picks Thursday and also drafted Baylor DT Phil Taylor at No. 21.
BEREA, Ohio -- The Cleveland Browns had an opportunity to make an immediate splash Thursday with the No. 6 overall pick in the NFL draft. Instead, Cleveland general manager Tom Heckert and president Mike Holmgren opted for longevity instead of immediate gratification.

First, they traded their sixth pick to the Atlanta Falcons in exchange for five draft picks. Then, the Browns moved back up from No. 27 to No. 21 to select Baylor defensive tackle Phil Taylor in the first round. Cleveland also gave up its third-rounder (No. 70 overall) to the Kansas City Chiefs to make the move.

Although Taylor is not the huge splash the Browns' faithful had hoped for in this draft, credit Cleveland's regime for thinking about the big picture.

In all, the wheeling and dealing gave the Browns four additional picks over the next two years. That totals an astounding 18 picks in the next two drafts, giving Cleveland a chance to infuse youth and talent into a struggling franchise.

"We thought if something was really, really intriguing to us to add more players, we'd do it," Heckert explained of the deal. "We're not saying we're one player away. There were some good players there [at No. 6], but it turns out what we got in return we feel very good about."

Heckert admitted Thursday night what we already knew: Cleveland has a long road ahead to build its roster into a contender. But credit the Browns' front office for making that honest assessment.

The Browns are not close to supplanting the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens in the AFC North, and they're not going to make a run to the Super Bowl this season. But this trade helps put Cleveland in position to build a solid foundation.

Cleveland got off to a good start with the 2010 draft. The Browns drafted cornerback Joe Haden in the first round, safety T.J. Ward in the second and quarterback Colt McCoy in the third. All three players developed into starters.

Last year's draft was the first of the Holmgren-Heckert partnership. Both are proven winners with a lengthy track records and experience. They are eager to acquire additional picks and are confident their front office and scouting staff knows what to do with them.

"Tom Heckert is the real deal," Holmgren said recently. "The people that work with him, our personnel department, they do their jobs and they do them very well. If I put on my coach hat for a moment, that's a real encouragement to Pat [Shurmur] and the coaches."

In Taylor, the Browns feel they drafted a potential starter at No. 21. The team cut former Pro Bowl defensive tackle Shaun Rogers this offseason, and the 337-pound Taylor fills a huge need with Cleveland switching to a 4-3 defense. He recorded 87 tackles and 2.5 sacks in two years at Baylor.

The AFC North is arguably the most physical division in football, and the Browns hope defensive tackles Ahtyba Rubin and Taylor will prevent Cleveland from getting gashed up the middle of the defense. The Ravens (Ray Rice), Steelers (Rashard Mendenhall) and Cincinnati Bengals (Cedric Benson) all had 1,000-yard running backs last season.

"I'm a great run-stopping defensive tackle, and I get a good pass rush as well," Taylor said Thursday night. "I played in the 4-3 my whole college career."

"We're going to be very tough inside," Heckert added.

With the Atlanta trade, the Browns will have two second-round picks Friday and a chance to add more building blocks.

"We have an opportunity in this draft to get more good players," Browns head coach Pat Shurmur said. "We're one more player better, and that's the approach. If you don't sense the excitement in my voice, it's there. We really feel we got a good player."

Browns move up, get DT Phil Taylor

April, 28, 2011
BEREA, Ohio -- After making a huge trade with the Atlanta Falcons, the Cleveland Browns moved back up Thursday to select Baylor defensive lineman Phil Taylor with the No. 21 overall pick. The Browns desperately needed defensive linemen in their new 4-3 defense and Taylor fills that need.

Cleveland gave up its third-round pick and swapped its first-round pick (No. 27) with the Kansas City Chiefs to get Taylor. He could be a starter from Day 1 next to Ahtyba Rubin. The Browns cut defensive tackle Shaun Rogers earlier this offseason.

We will have more reaction from Browns headquarters coming up.