BEREA—One of the mysteries of the 2009 season is the fact the Browns have been ranked near the bottom all season in run defense.
Take starting inside linebackers D'Qwell Jackson, Eric Barton and nose tackle Shaun Rogers out of the equation and it hardly makes sense that the Browns are able to hold the vaunted Steelers rushing attack to a mere 75 yards, especially in weather conditions that were conducive to running the ball.
Jason Trusnik and David Bowens are on the inside at linebacker and Corey Williams and Ahytba Rubin are on the line with Robaire Smith.The Browns performance against Pittsburgh in run defense moved them to 28th in the league, which is the highest they have been for most of the season.
"It's pretty consistent with what happened in '06 in New York," Mangini said. "You install a defense and the way you're playing, it looks like it's supposed to look but as you build up reps you improve significantly as it all fits together and works together. It works much better when you play a scheme with all 11 players working together."
Williams, who has lobbied all year for more playing time, had a big game against the Steelers with two sacks. He started at right end for the injured Kenyon Coleman, but had two sacks while coming from the inside. He also had five solo tackles.
"I'm just happy to get the playing time I'm getting," Williams said Wednesday. "I'm trying to take advantage of the playing time they've given me and just do the best I can.
"It always feels good when you play."
Williams had just two sacks all season and doubled it in one game. He was a key acquisition at the time a year ago when Phil Savage traded a second-round pick to the Packers for their franchise player. For whatever reason, Williams has had trouble adjusting to the 3-4 or maybe the coaches continue to use him on the outside, but he does better on the inside.
"I always knew that I still got it," he said. "It's just a matter of me getting the opportunity to show other people what I could do. I had a pretty good game. I've just got to continue it the rest of the season.
Williams lobbied for playing time on the inside when Rogers went down.
"I told you that's my home," he said. "I get so frustrated sometimes, I try to not even think about (not playing inside.)
"I hope they like what I did on the inside and continue to play me on the inside more."
On the season, Williams has 26 tackles, four sacks and two pass breakups. He had just one-half of a sack in 16 games last season after putting up back-to-back seasons of seven each with the Packers.
Rubin has played in 13 games, including two starts with 28 tackles and a forced fumble. He had a season high five tackles against the Bills in the team's first win of the season.
"I think I've done pretty good," Rubin said. "As a whole defense, we've played better. We were all doing our assignments."
Mangini has been impressed with Rubin.
"He has played very well," Mangini said. "He has a good base and sense of the schemes. I see Rubin as the season goes on to have an overall understanding of what we're doing.
"I think he's made progress throughout the season," he said. One of the things I was working for with consistency and embracing the schemes of the 3-4. I think he has continued to improve throughout the season and it was good to see him go in and play well against Pittsburgh."
Mangini Wants to Keep Cribbs: Mangini said that he hopes a contract extension can be re-worked with WR Josh Cribbs, who indicated on Wednesday that he is confident a deal will be re-done before the end of the season.
"I don't have a timeline but I really like Josh as a player and a person," he said. "His dedication and sacrifice are impressive."
Cribbs says he's proud of the way he handled the contract situation.
"I'm happy with the way I handled it and didn't cause a problem with the team," Cribbs said. "Phil Savage told me last year to put my head down and play and then this year, I had to do it again with the regime change."
Cribbs said he feels he's outplayed his current contract.
"I feel I've played and earned it," he said. "I think (the contract) should be based on your play. I feel I've outplayed my contract."
Does he fear another regime change could jeopardize his status.
"I'm kind of scared because I'm tired of putting my head down."
Mangini said its business as usual in terms of player procurement and contract negotiations, despite the pending hiring of a new GM.
"We've been going on throughout the season and everything is the same approach as to what we're doing, whether it be short term or long term. As we go through the season, there are still things that need to be addressed."
Junior Reporter: Alexis Martin, 9, won the Junior Reporter contest sponsored by the Browns and spent the day at Eric Mangini's press conference with the media and was a guest at practice. Alexis won the contest for her essay on why she loves the Browns. She is a fourth grader at Taft Elementary School in Ashland.
"My favorite player is Josh Cribbs," Alexis said.
Alexis was able to interview OL Joe Thomas and ask him a variety of questions. She was accompanied by her mother, Sandy. Alexis said her father, Ryan, wished he could've come, as well, but had to work.