BEREA - Left, right left, right. It sounds like orders being shouted out during a march of military personnel.
Instead, it's what Browns defensive end Jamaal Sheard has heard lately as he looks for a comfortable landing spot in his rookie season.
Sheard played primarily on the left side at the University of Pittsburgh, where he was named Big East Conference Defensive Player of the Year in 2010. The Browns, who selected him in the second round of the draft, started him on the right side.
The reasoning was Sheard and Jayme Mitchell were left ends. Coach Pat Shurmur and defensive coordinator Dick Jauron decided to give Sheard a start on the right side to keep him away from the tight end.
That proved to be a mistake that was quickly noticed by the coaches. Sheard struggled in preseason and in the first regular-season game. He flip-flopped positions with Mitchell last week in Indianapolis and the results were striking. Sheard had five tackles, including a sack of Colts quarterback Kerry Collins. Collins fumbled and Sheard recovered the ball.
There's no way Sheard is returning to the right side any time soon.
"Jayme and Jabaal both liked the shift," Jauron said. "There was a good deal of thought put into it, but the reasons weren't Earth-shattering. Coming out as a rookie we thought we'd get him away from the tight end more of the time. He's more comfortable on that (left) side. Jayme just wants to be on the field. It's worked out well for both of them."
Sheard seemed OK with the right side during training camp. As a rookie he wasn't about to make any demands, let alone ask the coaches to move him.
But it was clear Sheard wasn't having an impact. He was a non-factor rushing the passer, and offenses had success running to right side of the defense.
Sheard is happy with the switch.
"It's something I did for the last four years in college," Sheard said. "It's where I'm comfortable at. It's like shaking hands. If you ever shake with your left hand, it's weird."
Sheard isn't the only rookie performing well on the defensive line. Tackle Phil Taylor, a first-round draft choice, has registered a combined 11 tackles in the first two games.
"I just had to learn quickly," Taylor said. "You can't let yourself take a step back. You have to go in there and do whatever you have to do and do it fast."
Lost in all the talk about Sheard and Taylor is steady tackle Ahtyba Rubin, who was recently rewarded for his development by signing a three-year contract extension. Shurmur referred to Rubin as the rock of the line. Along the way he's become a mentor to the young players.
"I know I have to show these young guys and step up and try to be a leader," Rubin said. "I embrace that role. I have no problems with the young guys if they have any questions or worries about our opponents."
Rubin can best lead by his example on the field. He has a non-stop motor that coaches love. Even if he can't catch a back running down field, he gives chase until the whistle blows.
"I try to mimic him in everything I do," Taylor said.