BENGALS LT ANDREW WHITWORTH VS. BROWNS RE FROSTEE RUCKER
Rucker, off six seasons as a role player with the Bengals where he was well liked in the locker room, comes to Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 12) with the playing time he never had in Cincinnati. Rucker got a starter's deal in free agency and emerged with 46 snaps last Sunday in his Browns debut—about double what he usually played in Cincinnati—and was effective on first and second down against the run and got some heat playing at tackle on passing downs.
This is the kind of game and one of the reasons the Browns gave Rucker starting money despite never being full-time. Although the Browns finished 10th in total NFL defense and fifth in scoring defense last season, they were 30th against the run and former Bengals running back Cedric Benson had three straight 100-yard games against them before the Bengals opted to sign BenJarvus Green-Ellis this season.
Former Bengals defensive tackle John Thornton, Rucker's mentor during his first three seasons when he compared him to a young Kevin Carter because of his ability to play inside and outside, went to the game in Cleveland and came out of it noting that Eagles running back LeSean McCoy got most of his 110 yards and 20 carries to the side opposite Rucker in Philadelphia's last-second 17-16 victory.
Rucker is still going inside and out. On Saturday he's hosting people at the downtown frozen yogurt shop, Orange Leaf, he owns with some of his former Bengals teammates, and on Sunday the store opens in PBS, which is nice timing.
"He's got everything he wanted; playing time and respect," Thornton says. "He wants to play well. He wants to show (the Bengals) he was deserving of this.
"Frostee played well on Sunday. He's got a high motor. They say (Michael) Vick threw four interceptions but if you watch, Frostee was in his face on a lot of plays. He's a strong guy when he plays tackle on passing downs. He gets a push and that's going to be a challenge for the young Bengals guards.
"Frostee (6-3, 280) has finesse in the run game. Whit (6-7, 320) isn't going to be worried about his speed. Frostee doesn't want to take on blocks all day, but he can slip around you because he's a smart player. Whit knows that when he's going against a smart player that has a lot of strength and that knows you personally there are going to be no surprises. It's going to be about strength and technique."
Rucker is saying all the right things this week and he waxed nostalgic about his '06 draft classmates. The top four are starting Sunday in the league with first-rounder Johnathan Joseph coming off a Pro Bowl season in Houston and the second-rounder Whitworth and fourth-round defensive tackle Domata Peko still in Cincinnati playing at high levels. Rucker, a third-rounder, is coming off a four-sack season that was one more than his career total.
Whitworth knows he's getting a familiar look in the 3-4 dominated AFC North now that his matchup with Rucker is moving from the practice field. And not just because he knows Rucker but also because Rucker has a similar style to 3-4 ends even though he's in Cleveland's 4-3.
Whitworth on Rucker:
"Frostee is a smart player, strong guy. He's kind of got a mix of edge rusher who kind of rushes more like a D-tackle as far as a lot of power and different moves. He's also able to play the edge pretty good, too. He's a guy I think is a really good player and he'll have a chance to have some success there in Cleveland.
"With a young D-line they have I think it gives a guy with experience who knows what he's doing. He's a good player. A very aware player so I think it helps those guys out.
"He's more like, in a sense, Suggs, Kruger, Woodley. They are sort of power/speed guys. Frostee is kind of that. That's what he is as an edge rusher. I'd say he's different from most 4-3 ends. Most of the time four-down lines you are going to play have some kind of speed-type of guy. He plays a little more like a 3-4 end would, 5-tech, or something. He's more of a power player and a good football player."