Browns rookie DE Jabaal Sheard knows he has a lot to learn about the professional game. So, in addition to watching film of opposing offenses, he studies defensive ends he admires. He has watched Colts DE Dwight Freeney, Bears DE Julius Peppers and Eagles DE Trent Cole closely, to name three top pass rushers, and he was impressed with Cole's excellent performance at Atlanta in Week Two.
"He's a monster," Sheard said of Cole.
In Cleveland, Sheard is getting a prime opportunity to make a name for himself, too. Installed as a starter at the beginning of training camp, Sheard, a second-round pick from Pittsburgh, hasn't lacked for playing time, and he has shown promise as a pass rusher. In a particularly exceptional moment, he beat Colts ORT Jeff Linkenbach off the edge and sacked QB Kerry Collins, who fumbled. Sheard recovered the fumble, and Cleveland added a field goal for its final points in a 27-19 win.
While the play was a wonderful individual effort, Sheard credits his teammates for telling him to stick to his pass-rushing technique before the sack. Veteran Jayme Mitchell, who starts at right end, has been helpful, sharing his observations when needed.
"Sometimes he sees a weakness in a guy that I might not see," Sheard said.
Sheard also credits the Browns' linebackers, an experienced group, for their work deciphering the offense's intentions.
"Those guys are calling out plays left and right," Sheard said.
Sheard, who began the season on the right side, has moved to the left side, where he played collegiately, and his quickness — his greatest asset, he said — could prove difficult for some right tackles to handle, as he certainly proved to the Colts.
Of course, pass rushing is only part of a defensive end's responsibilities. As a run defender, Sheard wants to improve getting off blocks and setting the edge. If he can't make the play, he said, he needs to ensure that his teammates can.
Sheard is one of several Browns rookies making an immediate impact. Starting DT Phil Taylor has shown major promise, contributing both as a run stuffer and as a pass rusher. OLG Jason Pinkston and FB Owen Marecic also have garnered starting roles. And WR Greg Little is already a key part of the passing game. It's a group, Sheard said, that has been "ready to play" from the start. And the Browns, who have relied upon their rookies, have needed it to be.