BEREA —The Browns allowed 210 yards rushing Sunday in Cincinnati, and nose tackle Shaun Rogers wasn’t carted off until the final four minutes. They won’t have to wait long to see how much worse it can get without him.
Rogers is done for the year with a lower leg injury that will require surgery and send him to injured reserve. He made the Pro Bowl last season —the first Browns defender in Honolulu since Jamir Miller in 2001 —and was arguably their best defender again this year.
“You miss a dominant player, a dominant guy,” end Corey Williams said Monday, a day after a 16-7 loss to the Bengals. “A guy that’s going to take a double team just about every play. A hard-playing guy, a fun guy, a funny guy.”
Coach Eric Mangini wouldn’t give the specific nature of the injury, saying “it’s like his lower leg and his ankle.” Rogers was engaged with a Bengals lineman when someone rolled into his left leg. He was driven off the field on a cart with his hands on his head.
“He’s very disappointed,” Mangini said. “He wants to be out there. It hurts. It’s really unfortunate.”
Rogers wasn’t in the locker room during the media availability, but had talked to his teammates.
“He’s still in good spirits,” Williams said. “It’s just something you got to deal with.”
The relationship between Rogers and Mangini got off to a rocky start when the coach was hired, but they worked out their differences and Mangini had come to appreciate his effort and performance. Rogers, who had 73 tackles and 4½ sacks last year, blocked three kicks this year, giving him 16 for his career.
“He’s big, he’s disruptive. They have to deal with him from a game-plan perspective,” Mangini said.
Ahtyba Rubin, a sixth-round pick out of Iowa State in 2008, will take Rogers’ place and make his first NFL start. He’s spelled Rogers throughout the season, playing about 30 percent of the snaps, making 11 tackles and forcing a fumble.
“This is a great opportunity for him to continue to develop in that role,” Mangini said. “He has done a real nice job.
“He’s very good with his hands and his hand placement inside the center’s chest. He’s gotten better with shedding the blocker and being more patient with shedding the blocker.”
Rubin admitted he’s got big shoes to fill, but welcomes the chance.
“It’s a great opportunity,” he said. “It’s unfortunate it happened to a great person like ‘Big Baby’ and I just look forward to getting out there on Sundays and proving myself.”
Rogers’ injury was the biggest blow dealt to a dreadful defense Sunday, but it wasn’t isolated. They made it through the flu bug relatively unscathed early in the year, but the injury bug finally caught up with them.
End Kenyon Coleman and outside linebacker Kamerion Wimbley suffered knee injuries, and safety Brodney Pool sustained at least the fourth concussion of his five-year career.
Mangini didn’t rule out any of the three starters for Sunday’s visit from San Diego, which has won six straight. But Pool seems highly unlikely, especially with the NFL’s increased focus on the handling of concussions.
“With Kenyon and Kam it will be a wait-and-see type situation,” Mangini said. “That’s going to take some time, just see where we are during the course of the week.”
Wimbley was headed for treatment Monday and didn’t know his status for the Chargers. He said a player rolled into his left knee.
C.J. Mosley and Williams will see increased playing time with Rogers and possibly Coleman down. If Wimbley can’t go, Jason Trusnik could move back outside, or Alex Hall and Marcus Benard could get more time.
The Browns seemed to be making strides on defense before blowing a 21-point lead and allowing 38 points in a loss to Detroit, then allowing the 210 rushing yards to the Bengals. They rank 31st in total defense, 29th against the run, 24th against the pass and 27th in scoring.
The Browns have been fortunate on the injury front, but the three most significant injuries have come to the middle of the defense. Rogers follows inside linebackers, captains and leading tacklers D’Qwell Jackson (Oct. 20) and Eric Barton (Nov. 10) to injured reserve.
“Really, that whole interior has changed dramatically from the start of the season,” Mangini said.
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or firstname.lastname@example.org.