BEREA - Help can't arrive soon enough for the Browns' struggling run defense.
It would be strong to say teams are gouging the Browns on the ground, but it hasn't been a pretty sight. Through seven games the defense is allowing 133.7 yards a game, a ranking of 24th in the NFL. Opponents are averaging 4.5 yards a carry.
There was a positive sign Wednesday when defensive tackle Phil Taylor practiced for the first time this season. Taylor is still on the physically-unable-to-perform list as he recovers from surgery last May to repair a torn pectoral.
That news was canceled out by the absence of defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin, who re-injured his calf against the Indianapolis Colts last Sunday. In all probability the defense will be without Rubin and Taylor for another game Sunday against the San Diego Chargers.
Coach Pat Shurmur said the chances of Taylor playing are "low." Taylor's timetable for returning goes beyond this week.
"This is my first week of practice," Taylor said. "You're not going to throw someone in after their first week of practice after not playing half the season."
Baltimore Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs made news last week when he was activated off the PUP list and played against the Houston Texans. Suggs suffered a tear of an Achilles' tendon five months ago. That injury usually sidelines a player for at least 11 months.
Taylor doesn't think his situation can be compared to Suggs'.
"It was a different injury," Taylor said.
Taylor's progress is better than expected. He had the advantage of time because the injury happened while he was lifting weights in the offseason.
"They said it was like a four-to-six-week process," Taylor said. "I knew I was going to work hard to get back. I wasn't going to get down about it."
Middle linebacker D'Qwell Jackson has kept Taylor apprised of what to expect during the rehabilitation. Jackson missed the final 10 games of the 2009 season and all of 2010 with torn pectorals.
"He always bounces things off me in terms of rehab and what I do to keep the maintenance up," Jackson said. "It's something he's going to have to address throughout his career. It's important to ice, to stretch and to keep that range of motion."
Jackson said that Taylor will be thinking about the injury when he returns to action.
"It's in his head," Jackson said. "I told him today that he'll know (he's okay) when he has to overextend to make a tackle and when you get up and there's nothing wrong."
Getting Taylor and Rubin back would be a boost to a defense that looks to be wearing down. Rookie tackles Billy Winn, John Hughes and Ishmaa'ily Kitchen have logged considerable minutes in their absence. They had been holding up well until recent games.
"I think it's important that they keep pushing and they go through the process and make sure they're getting as ready as they can be for a 1 o'clock start on Sunday," Shurmur said. "The season adds up on you a little bit. They have to do all the right things with their time and preparation to make sure they don't wear down."
The defense will never be fully healthy. That's the case for all teams once the season starts.
"All year long we haven't had all our moving bodies together at one time," Jackson said. "Once we start to get guys back, our young guys have become seasoned. The biggest thing moving forward is to address the problems on the field before we get to the sideline. That's when you can take your game to the next level."