Player Profile – Defense – Cleveland Browns
Ahtyba Rubin – Defensive Lineman:
After multiple trades, the 2008 draft class for the Cleveland Browns was an extremely rare (and odd) one. The year prior, the franchise traded away their first round pick for the rights to select Brady Quinn. In March 2008, the team traded away their second and third round selections in order to acquire Shaun Rogers and Corey Williams. Of the five remaining picks for the Browns only one has gone on to have a solid professional career – the sixth round pick from Iowa State University.
Early in his football career, Ahtyba Rubin was definitely well traveled. The athlete grew up in Virginia, went to high school in Florida, and enrolled in community college in Texas. He ended up securing All-conference honors (and All-American honorable mention) in 2006. Rubin then transferred to Iowa State for his final two collegiate seasons – foregoing TCU as an alternative. Switching back and forth between offensive and defensive line, the football star went returned to his natural role with the Cyclones; defending the football.
Rubin’s senior season was productive but not dominant; the defensive lineman notched forty-two stops and had a sack-and-a-half on the opposition. Entering the NFL Draft, many scouts did not see him project as anything more than a rotational player. Despite displaying remarkable strength at the combine in Indianapolis (thirty-five repetitions of 225 pounds – third most that year), Rubin did not improve his draft stock. After 189 choices went by in late April, the Browns finally took a chance on the defender; he has been one of their best, value picks ever since.
The rookie season was one of learning for Rubin; he appeared in eleven contests but mostly in a reserve role (behind Rogers). The 2008 Browns went 4 – 12 and were extremely inconsistent on offense, but the defense was slightly better. Despite allowing the fifth most rushing yards, the unit ranked sixteenth in points allowed and fourteenth in rushing yards surrendered. This was a silver lining for the franchise; fans felt this part of the team could carry the franchise while upgrades would be made on the other side of the ball.
In 2009, the subsequent coaching staff started a miserable 1 – 11, but followed up with four consecutive victories. After Rogers sustained an injury in week twelve, Rubin started the final five contests. Outside of the shootout in Kansas City (a 41 – 34 victory), the defense of the Browns gave up six, nine, and seventeen points in the other three games. During this period, they allowed a one hundred yard rusher (against the Jaguars) and a two hundred yard passer (versus the Raiders) one time each. The defense was far from perfect, but they seemed to be getting better as the season wore on.
Mangini’s second season included trading away Corey Williams and moving Shaun Rogers to defensive end; this allowed Rubin to finally become a starter in the NFL – at nose tackle. Another dismal season filled with injuries and losses occurred for the Browns. However, the defense continued its upward trend from 2009. They rated thirteenth in points allowed and eighteenth in passing yardage surrendered, but continued to get gashed against the run (twenty-seventh most allowed). After removing their coach, the new staff would implement a 4 – 3 scheme, where Rubin would have a partner up the middle of the defensive front.
In the draft, the team took Phil Taylor in the first round, a defensive lineman from the University of Baylor. Defensive coordinator Dick Jauron employed his changes with personnel and schemes – the Browns allowed only 307 points during the season (fifth most in the league), and gave up the second fewest passing yards. However, stopping the run proved to once again be a difficult task; the 2011 squad gave up the third most yards on the ground. For the third straight season, Rubin played in each game for the Browns. During that time period, he totaled seven sacks, a forced fumble, and an interception. However, until the defense could improve substantially, the defensive lineman would never garner any recognition his way.
The next offseason saw Taylor injure his pectoral and miss the first half of the 2012 season as a result. Rubin would once again have to shoulder the load for the defensive front. Alongside rookies Billy Winn and John Hughes, the Browns finally were able to slow down opposing rushers. They moved up to nineteenth in yards allowed but regressed in points (nineteenth) and passing yards (twenty-fifth) surrendered. The four-game suspension for starter Joe Haden extremely hurt the secondary, and the remainder of the defense could not overcome this loss. Another five-win season for the Browns and the team had several changes (again) on the horizon.
His contract runs another year following the 2013 season, so it may be a bit premature to speculate about Rubin’s future with the team. One of the franchise’s first moves in free agency was to sign Desmond Bryant to start at defensive end. Rubin will start primarily at end (for the first time in his professional career) but I anticipate him rotating at nose tackle as well. This is the most depth and talent the team has had in years, and I can see improvement in the defensive line as a result. If they do become successful, perhaps Rubin can get one more contract extension with the Cleveland Browns.