There is no question that Tom Heckert is putting his stamp on this roster. Nine of the 22 starters on Sunday (Pinkston, Lauvao, McCoy, Marecic, Hardesty, Sheard, Taylor, Haden and Ward) were selected by Heckert in only 2 draft classes. Other additions either by trade or free agent signing include Mitchell, Brown, Gocong, Fujita and Watson. Buster Skrine and Dimitri Patterson played big roles. Greg Little had big catches on the final drive. And the steal of the decade Peyton Hillis didn’t even play.
But one of the players Heckert inherited continued his stellar play on Sunday, even though he might be overlooked because of the rookies around him.
Last season was a breakout year for Ahtyba Rubin. He emerged as more than just Shaun Rogers’ back-up. He became the star of the defensive line.
Last season, no defensive lineman had more tackles than Rubin. His 82 combined tackles set the pace. It is a pace that he is on his way to breaking this season. Already credited with 16 tackles and 2.5 sacks (last season he finished with 2.0 sacks) Rubin is again in the top five in the league. This time he has company. Teammate Phil Taylor has 18 tackles and a sack to his name.
Moving from a 3-4 to a 4-3 meant more than just sliding over a man for Rubin. It is a base defense Rubin hasn’t played in before. He is being asked to do much more than simply occupy blockers. He is responsible for only one gap, but is expected to make plays in that gap. He is also expected to bring pressure on the QB, something Rubin has been doing a lot of early on this season.
Here we see Rubin pushing Pro Bowl center Jeff Saturday back into the QB from the shotgun formation. He pushed Saturday back 8 yards and brought down both Collins and Saturday for a sack.
Here’s a great one from this week. That’s Miami guard Richie Incognito reaching for Rubin’s ankle in an attempt to save his QB’s life as Ahtyba races towards him. Henne ducked out of the way of the sack, but the pressure was applied and D’Qwell Jackson followed Rubin’s lead to the QB.
Having Phil Taylor beside him is going to be fun to watch all season long. You can’t double team them both. It will also open up the middle for blitzes, something the Browns have started doing, and I imagine will do more frequently.
Rubin was a sixth round pick out of Iowa State. Not really the hotbed for defensive linemen. Perhaps Rubin is getting used to being overlooked. Sheard and Taylor are going to continue to grab headlines if their production continues. But Rubin should not get lost in that shadow. He is a bright spot and a consistent force for the Browns inside.
Rubin isn’t a loud or flashy personality either. He is more soft-spoken, and would prefer his play to be the example for the younger linemen to follow. Despite being his 4th year in the league, and just his second as a full time starter, Rubin is the most experienced of the d-linemen on the roster. Hopefully that experience will extend into the post-season soon, or possibly to the Pro-Bowl.