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2012 Position Review: Linebacker

Posted Feb 7, 2013

As ClevelandBrowns.com looks back at the 2012 season, we break down the year position-by-position, and today’s spotlight is on the linebackers.

Overview:

Early in training camp, it became clear that the 2012 Cleveland Browns would be impacted by injuries at the linebacker position.

On the second Saturday practice of training camp, veteran outside linebacker Chris Gocong jumped to break up a Brandon Weeden pass intended for tight end Jordan Cameron. Gocong crumpled to the ground and suffered what was later said to be a torn Achilles tendon, which put him out for the season.

In addition, at the beginning of the year, veteran Scott Fujita was embroiled in a bounty scandal dating back to his final season, 2009, with the New Orleans Saints. Just days before the season, Fujita was cleared to play, but did not dress for the team’s regular-season opener. Fujita’s season later came to an abrupt end when he experienced shoulder/neck injuries.

While the injuries continued to mount for the Browns’ veterans, several rookie and second-year players got an opportunity to display their skills in the starting lineup, or in key reserve roles.

Both L.J. Fort and Craig Robertson tallied interceptions in the team’s season-opening loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. When Fujita returned to the lineup, Fort served in more of a special teams role, while Robertson saw time as an extra linebacker in the nickel package.

Robertson finished third on the team with 93 total tackles, 62 of which were solo stops. Robertson had one sack and two interceptions, one of which was the first interception in the red zone of Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco in more than 100 snaps inside his opponents’ 20-yard line.

Outstanding Performer:

In his second full year following back-to-back seasons lost to separate pectoral tears, veteran D’Qwell Jackson registered a team-best 118 total stops, and was second with 63 solo tackles. Jackson also forced two fumbles and matched a career high with 3.5 quarterback sacks.

In the first two games of the season, Jackson returned an interception of Philadelphia quarterback Michael Vick 27 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. He followed that up by intercepting Cincinnati signal-caller Andy Dalton once and sacking him three times in a 34-27 loss at the Bengals on Sept. 16.

Later in the year, Jackson was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week after he registered a team-best nine tackles, recovered one fumble and forced another in the Browns’ 20-14 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Nov. 25.

Key Number:

Five.

With 118 total tackles in 2012, Jackson registered his fifth 100-tackle season in seven years with the Browns. He has only played in six seasons, as he missed the entire 2010 campaign with the second of two consecutive pectoral tears.

He has led the team in tackles four times in seven years with the Browns.

What to Watch For:

How the linebackers handle a switch to a 3-4, as well as the other types of fronts new defensive coordinator Ray Horton will utilize this fall.

Jackson played most of his career in the 3-4 since the team selected him with the 34th overall pick in the 2006 NFL Draft. Under the direction of head coaches Romeo Crennel and Eric Mangini, Jackson totaled 468 of his 744 career tackles in a 3-4 defensive front.