- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 21, 2011

BEREA, OHIO (AP) - They are rookies, subject to the same ribbing and ridicule Cleveland’s veterans give all the newbies.

Defensive linemen Phil Taylor and Jabaal Sheard don’t get any preferential treatment. They’re no different from the Browns other first-year players.

Except on Sunday.

After the season’s first two games, Taylor and Sheard, Cleveland’s top two draft picks this year, are showing potential and signs they could become quality core players for the Browns (1-1). They’re making big plays and performing beyond their years. These kids look like seasoned veterans.

“It sure feels that way so far,” linebacker Scott Fujita said as the Browns prepared to host Miami on Sunday. “They’re young, but they’re familiar with a system like this. They play fast. They play aggressive. That’s all you can ask for at this point. Now it’s just about improving every week.”

That’s the trick for NFL rookies, but Taylor and Sheard appear to be catching on quickly.

Both had a major impact in Cleveland’s 27-19 win on Sunday over the Indianapolis Colts, whose offensive line had a tough time dealing with the Browns’ front our of Taylor, Sheard, Ahtyba Rubin and Jayme Mitchell.

The 335-pound Taylor, the No. 21 overall pick, had five tackles, batted down a pass and created pressure on quarterback Kerry Collins by powering his way through the interior of Indy’s front. Sheard, a second-round pick (No. 37 overall) from Pittsburgh, had five tackles and stripped Collins on a fourth-quarter sack that he nearly negated with an ill-advised lateral.

He won’t make that mistake again.

“We got him right,” Fujita joked. “Don’t worry about that.”

Sheard played on the left side against Indianapolis after playing right end against Cincinnati in the season opener. He flip-flopped with Mitchell, and Browns coach Pat Shurmur said he will likely stick with that alignment going forward because Sheard is more comfortable on the left side.

Why’s that, coach?

“He just is,” Shurmur said. “Certain guys just tend to be better on doing certain things. That’s part of the evaluation process as you get to know guys.”

As the Browns learn more about Taylor and Sheard, the young linemen are doing their part to grasp the complexities of playing on the line as pros. It’s not like college, where their talent, strength and speed helped them overwhelm opponents. At this level, everyone’s big, fast and stout, and offensive coaches can devise schemes to expose players _ especially eager rookies trying to make a name for themselves.

Taylor and Sheard are getting a crash course in Defense 101.

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