Of all the positions on the field, linebacker was a source of experience for the 2011 Cleveland Browns.
Combined between the three opening day starters -- middle linebacker D’Qwell Jackson, strong side backer
Fujita started 10 games for the Browns in his 10th NFL season before a broken hand against the Cincinnati Bengals on Nov. 27 short-circuited his season. Jackson started all 16 games during his sixth year in the league. Gocong, a sixth-year pro, started all 16 games, the first 12 on the weak side and the last four on the strong side after Fujita was lost for the season.
Jackson returned to the field in 2011 for the first time in nearly two full seasons. Consecutive and separate pectoral tears cost Jackson 26 games combined between the 2009 and 2010 seasons and he entered the year on a one-year contract the Browns extended to him prior to the NFL work stoppage in March.
As predicted by his teammates and coaches, Jackson was a perfect fit for the team’s 4-3 defense and registered 158 tackles. Only Washington Redskins linebacker and John Carroll University graduate London Fletcher had more tackles than Jackson.
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The Browns had several goal line stands during the 2011 season and their one in Pittsburgh against the Steelers on Dec. 8 was among the more memorable. The Steelers had a first-and-goal situation from inside the five-yard line, but Gocong helped keep running back Rashard Mendenhall out of the end zone.
Mendenhall was stopped four times inside the five, a stand which helped keep the teams separated by just one score for the better part of the fourth quarter.
What to Watch For:
How this veteran group continues to develop.
In addition to his 158 total tackles, Jackson finished with 116 solo stops, a career-high 3.5 sacks for 25 lost yards, one interception, three pass breakups, a forced fumble and three fumble recoveries.
Prior to being injured, Fujita registered 51 tackles, 37 solo stops, an interception and three pass breakups.
Gocong tied Jackson with 3.5 sacks, the most of any Browns linebackers this season. He also made the third-most stops, 67, of anyone on the team, disrupted three passes, forced two fumbles and recovered another.
Maiava, who played the final game of the season with a cast on his hand after breaking it Dec. 24 in Baltimore, was a key special teams player that got extended work on the weak side of the defense when Fujita was placed on injured reserve and Gocong slid over to the strong side to replace him.
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