Like most of Cleveland’s front-seven, the defensive tackle position is in fairly good hands. Phil Taylor, a first round selection entering his fourth season, is the man whom Browns fans will be trusting to dictate the center of the line of scrimmage, and by all accounts he is the right man for the job.
When Taylor put up four sacks and 59 total tackles during his rookie season, it was clear that he had some serious talent. Unfortunately, an injury caused him to miss half of his sophomore campaign, and he has yet to regain the level of play seen during his first season.
The good news is that the Browns transition from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense last year should prove be the perfect fit for Taylor’s game. While his speed and quickness may be limited, Taylor’s strength and size are exactly what is needed in a 3-4 nose tackle. Assuming that he is perfectly healthy heading into next season, there is no reason why Taylor shouldn’t be one of the most impactful players on the Browns defense.
If there is a problem at the defensive tackle position, it’s in Cleveland’s lack of depth. As of right now, Ishmaa’ily Kitchen is the only other pure nose tackle on the roster, and he has almost no experience in the NFL. Undrafted out of Kent State, Kitchen has yet to start a game in his two year career and has only racked up 35 total tackles. Ahtyba Rubin and Billy Winn have some experience as 4-3 defensive tackles, but they are best suited playing the end position in this defense.
Whether it be through free agency or the draft, the Browns need to pick up another nose tackle as an insurance policy. Ryan Pickett and Terrence Cody are essentially the last two true, nose tackles available on the free agent market. While neither player is great, especially when it comes to pass rushing, they could at least prove valuable in the run game.
That being said, the best option is likely going to be found in the draft. Though Cleveland has five picks in the first three rounds, there is no way one of them should be spent on a defensive tackle. There are far greater needs. Instead, after making sure that most of the major leaks on the roster are plugged, the Browns should look for a developmental nose tackle in one of the later rounds.