BEREA, Ohio — With the injuries piling up on the defensive line, it is a mere lock that either rookie John Hughes or Billy Winn will line up with Ahtyba Rubin at tackle on Sept. 9 against the Eagles.
Starter defensive tackle Phil Taylor is lost for the first part of the season with a pectoral injury and backups Scott Paxson (knee), Auston English (undisclosed), Marcus Benard (dislocated elbow) and Brian Schaefering (undisclosed) are currently out.
So the question is will it be Hughes or Winn?
Hughes is listed as the starter on the depth chart, but Winn lined up first with the starting unit at practice Monday.
“It’s safe to say there will be a little rotation in there with the guys we have on the roster,” Pat Shurmur said. “Of course, somebody has to play the first play, but you usually use several guys.”
“I think we’re both competent,” Winn said. “We’ll have a rotation out there.”
Hughes (6-2, 320) was selected in the third round of this year’s draft from Cincinnati. Winn was taken in the sixth round from Boise State.
Winn said he doesn’t worry about being selected as low as he was, rather thinking about the opportunity he has.
“I don’t think about it,” he said. “I’m here wearing a Browns uniform and my foot is in the door and I’m putting everything I have into it. I try to practice and play every down like it’s my last time.”
Hughes has three tackles, including one for a loss against the Packers in the second preseason game.
Winn (6-4, 295) had two tackles against the Eagles and tracked down LeSean McCoy for a four-yard loss in the first quarter. He has six tackles thus far in the preseason.
He was asked if he felt he was better at pass rushing or run stopping at this point in his young career.
“I feel it’s even,” he said. “I have a lot of work to do in both areas the pass rush and run stopping, but I feel I have a lot of versatility and that helps a lot.”
Winn, sporting a Mohawk haircut, enjoyed starting against the Eagles.
“It felt good to get out there,” he said. “I felt that I made some good things happen.”
“(Winn’s) done an excellent job,” Shurmur said. “He plays fast and finds a way to free himself up in there. That is hard at the defensive tackle position. I think he’s done a good job in creating a bit of a rush and he’s a good athlete.
“He’s a skateboard guy.”
Winn was asked what Shurmur meant by that.
“I was an action sports guy,” Winn said. “I grew up watching the ‘X Games’ and doing flips on the skateboard and all.”
Winn was asked if he still does any skateboarding.
“No. It’s too crazy now.”
Patterson Improving: DB Dimitri Patterson was on the stationary bicycle on Monday and again Tuesday. It was the first time he’s been seen on the practice field since getting injured against the Lions in the first preseason game. The team has not confirmed his injury, but it is believed to have been an ankle sprain. He was walking without a limp and didn’t have either ankle heavily wrapped.
Shurmur said he’s coming along fine and is hopeful he’ll be back practicing soon.
“He’s making great progress and am happy he’s feeling less sore,” Shurmur said.
Patterson is being counted on to be no less than the third cornerback, but with a possible suspension of CB Joe Haden looming, Patterson would move into the starting lineup, if healthy.
Richardson, Too: Shurmur was again asked about RB Trent Richardson, who Shurmur said on Monday will be out practicing ‘soon’. However, unlike Patterson, Richardson hasn’t been seen on the sidelines at practice.
“Richardson is making great progress and he’ll back out there soon,” Shurmur said on Tuesday.
When pressed about his definition of soon, he was asked if that meant in an hour.
“No. Sooner or later he’ll be out there and then we’ll talk about it.”
Hardesty Not Demoted: During Richardson’s absence, RB Montario Hardesty has been running with the first team. Shurmur said that Hardesty was not demoted after fumbling the ball against the Eagles. Rather, he was held out of practice Monday due to soreness from the game.
“He was out there practicing,” Shurmur said. “There are reasons why guys don’t practice. He was sore from the game.”
RB Brandon Jackson ran with the first team in Monday’s practice. Hardesty was alternating with Jackson with the first team on Tuesday.
Injury Update: The Browns continue to have a number of players missing practice Tuesday. The only addition to Monday’s missing were DB David Sims (undisclosed) and DL Auston English (undisclosed).
DE Marcus Benard is out with a dislocated elbow suffered against the Eagles.
“He dislocated his elbow and they fixed it,” Shurmur said. “We’ll just see how quickly he’ll progress.”
He could be placed on season ending injured reserve or could be out for multiple weeks, depending on the decisions made on the roster. LB Chris Gocong (Achilles) is expected to be placed on injured reserve at roster cut down time.
DB Dimitri Patterson (ankle), LB Scott Fujita (knee), DB Ray Ventrone (hamstring), DL Scott Paxson (knee), TE Ben Watson (undisclosed), English and DL Phil Taylor (pectoral) were on stationary bikes.
RB Chris Ogbonnaya (ankle), RB Trent Richardson (knee), Gocong (Achilles), OL Oniel Cousins (foot), Benard (elbow), DL Brian Schaefering (undisclosed), DB Antwuan Reed(undisclosed) and LB Emmanuel Acho (undisclosed) were not at practice.
Young Back: After missing the majority of training camp with what was reported as a hamstring injury, DB Usama Young was back on Monday. He said his injury was a ‘quadriceps’ pull, not a hamstring, which is what plagued him in training camp in 2011.
Shurmur was asked if his missing time would allow him to find a spot in the rotation. Eric Hagg has claimed the free safety position with Young out.
“I talked about veterans that can miss time,” Shurmur said. “(Young’s) found a way to stay healthy during the season, but anytime you’re not out there it slows your ability to get ready.”
Roster Moves: The Browns cut down to 80 players on Monday by releasing WR Carlton Mitchell, OL Jake Anderson, OL Matt Cleveland, DB Emanuel Davis, LB Jo Jo Dickson, P Spencer Lanning, WR Bert Reed, WR Jermaine Saffold and WR Owen Spencer. They needed to be at 75 by Monday evening. It is expected that two will be LB Chris Gocong to injured reserve and DL Phil Taylor to Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list. Also, DB Antwuan Reed might be part of an injury settlement.
Replacement Zebras: Shurmur wouldn’t comment either way on his comments regarding starting the regular season with the replacement referees.
“We’re all busting our fannies trying to get it right players, coaches and referees in the preseason they’re working through it like we are,” he said.