BEREA - After being run over for 200 yards by Ahmad Bradshaw of the New York Giants last Sunday, the help wanted sign is out for the Browns defense.
First in line as soon as next week is defensive tackle Phil Taylor, who's been sidelined since having surgery to repair a torn pectoral in May. Taylor is on the physically-unable-to-perform list, which means he can't be eligible to play for at least six weeks. After that time teams have three weeks to either activate the player or place him on injured reserve.
Coach Pat Shurmur has received nothing but good news concerning Taylor's rehabilitation. It appears Taylor might be activated without the need of another 21 days.
"He looks great," Shurmur said. "Hopefully, he'll be back soon. Let's just say this: I think he'll be right on schedule."
Taylor, a first-round draft choice last year, was hoping to make strides in his performance level when the injury occurred while lifting weights. He was an observer of practices throughout training camp and is now counting the days until he returns.
"It's tough," Taylor said. "Nobody wants to sit out. I know at the same time we can get the job done and we can turn things around."
The offseason plan was to build a deep group of interior linemen that could be rotated in and out to keep fresh bodies on the field. General manager Tom Heckert drafted John Hughes (third round) and Billy Winn (sixth round) to add depth behind starters Ahtyba Rubin and Taylor.
Taylor's injury was a jolt to the plan. It forced Winn and Hughes to play more minutes than was expected of them. It also required the addition of Ishmaa'ily Kitchen to pick up some of the minutes.
Winn and Hughes have had some good moments while also dealing with growing pains. Hughes has 11 tackles and one sack. Winn has nine tackles and has defensed two passes.
Winn has started each of the five games, and Hughes has come off the bench in those games. With Rubin nursing an ankle injury, there's a chance that both rookies will start Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals.
"It's safe to say that we've relied on Winn and Hughes to step in and give us some good snaps," Shurmur said. "We're starting to see these guys develop pretty well. One way to look at it is they're holding down the fort until Phil gets back. I don't think so. It will be great when we add Phil back into the mix because they're developing into good NFL players."
Winn has caught the attention of the defensive coaches with his speed and ability to penetrate. Hughes is more of a classic two-gap nose tackle.
"I feel like we're exactly where we need to be right now," Winn said. "We're constantly learning and trying to build our fundamentals and build our base for this defense."
Neither Hughes nor Winn expected to log as many minutes as they have five games into the season.
"It's very surprising," Winn said. "We were given the opportunity, and I feel like we're making the best of it."
Taylor likes what he's seen from the sideline.
"They're playing great," Taylor said. "I know it was tough for me coming in as a rookie, so for them to come in and do the job they're doing now is real good."
Taylor's return can only help.