Two weeks ago, backup defensive end Emmanuel Stephens somewhat surprisingly replaced starter Jayme Mitchell at defensive end. At the time, reports indicated that Mitchell was nursing an injury. Last week, Pat Shurmur indidcated that Mitchell's health was better and that he may be back in the lineup against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
On gameday, Stephens was still in the lineup. When asked about the position Monday morning, Shurmur stated that Stephens would remain the starter moving forward, even though Mitchell is healthy.
"Coaches' choice," Shurmur said. "We felt like (Stephens) played well the week before, and we felt like he warranted being the starter." When asked if there was an issue with Mitchell's performance against the run, Shurmur said, "Nope. No issue. Coaches' choice."
Stephens finished the game with 4 tackles and 1 quarterback hit. Mitchell finished the game with 1 tackle, but also had a quarterback hit of his own. While I think Mitchell had quieted down in recent games, he did have 7 tackles for a loss, 4 quarterback hits, and 1.5 sacks on the season. He was noted as being the team's best pass rusher by general manager Tom Heckert in 2010, despite not seeing the field. He swapped sides with rookie defensive end Jabaal Sheard back in Week 1. My guess is that Stephens "promotion" must have something to do with how he is defending against the run.
Interestingly enough, the Browns originally had two players on the depth chart who might have been ahead of Stephens. One of those guys was Marcus Benard, who is out for the year after a motorcycle accident. The other guy is Austin English, Benard's replacement, who has been inactive for several weeks now after sustaining an injury shortly after his promotion.
What are your thoughts on Stephens replacing Mitchell in the starting rotation?