Position thoughts: Linebacker

Posted by Vic Carucci on November 12, 2012 – 8:39 pm

By Vic Carucci, Senior Editor

This is the sixth in a series of position-by-position thoughts on the Browns after nine games. In this installment, we take a look at linebacker:

>>The Browns took a couple of big hits at this position with the season-ending injuries suffered by veterans Chris Gocong (Achilles) and Scott Fujita (neck). They lost considerable experience and were forced to rely on their youthful depth more heavily than they anticipated. Given the proliferation of young players comprising the linebacking corps, it likely won’t be until the end of the season that the Browns have a true handle on exactly what they have at the position.

>>Fortunately for the Browns, they have one of the top middle linebackers in the game in seventh-year veteran D’Qwell Jackson. He has played exceptionally well, with team-leading totals for tackles (70) and sacks (three). Jackson is one sack shy from a career best. Thanks in no small part to Jackson’s efforts, the Browns have done a decent job of weathering the losses of Gocong and Fujita. Besides offering great leadership, Jackson continues to cover a tremendous amount of ground and consistently puts himself and – by calling signals and making proper pre-snap adjustments – the rest of the front seven in the best position to make plays. Jackson’s value to the Browns was never more evident than when he wound up missing the second half of the Oct. 7 loss against the New York Giants with a concussion, and the defense wound up allowing 159 rushing yards.

>>After Jackson, the only linebacker with even marginal experience is fourth-year pro Kaluka Maiava, who is starting on the weak side in place of Gocong. Maiava has been solid, and although his 6-foot, 229-pound frame might be less than ideal, he is making the most of his opportunity. Rookie James-Michael Johnson has started the last four games for Fujita on the strong side. Johnson is raw and prone to making occasional mistakes. But he is plenty aggressive and athletic enough to make plays. He has shown steady improvement.

>>Two other rookies, Craig Robertson and L.J. Fort, have also contributed. Robertson has quickly established himself as a playmaker when taking the field in mostly nickel situations. Fort has also made some plays while seeing action, including one start, early in the season. But he has played mostly on special teams since.

>>Carucci’s Corner is presented by Panera Bread.

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>>Have a question for “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford”? Ask me at Twitter.com/browns_daily, Twitter.com/viccarucci, e-mail: Daily@ClevelandBrowns.com, or by calling 855-363-2459.

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