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Inside linebacker climbs on Cleveland Browns’ need list

Posted Mar 4, 2014

Senior Editor Vic Carucci has put together his list of needs, from nine to one, for the Browns to address through free agency and the draft. At No. 4, inside linebacker.

University of Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley at the NFL Scouting Combine

The Browns had a need at inside linebacker before they released D’Qwell Jackson last week. 

Minus Jackson, they have an even larger one.

Although Craig Robertson was solid against the run, he proved to be a liability in pass coverage. As the 2013 season progressed, more and more opponents looked to exploit that by isolating him against running backs and tight ends.

Jackson continued to prove to be one of the NFL’s foremost tackling machines, but he also had his challenges against the pass.

One of the clearest examples of the Browns’ problems with inside-linebacker coverage was their 27-26 loss at New England on Dec. 8, when Patriots running back Shane Vereen caught a game-high 12 passes for 153 yards.

The Browns will enter the free-agency market on March 11 looking for linebackers who can hold up far better in coverage than Robertson and Jackson.

The best player at the position who could be available is Arizona’s Karlos Dansby, although the Cardinals are reportedly working to sign him to a long-term deal. Another intriguing top-level player who could hit the open market is Daryl Smith of the Baltimore Ravens.

The Browns would figure to take a close look at Arthur Moats of the Buffalo Bills, with whom Browns coach Mike Pettine spent last season as defensive coordinator. Moats is not a huge difference-making player, but he does have a good understanding of Pettine’s defense and is a good leader.

According to most draft analysts, the two highest-rated inside linebackers from the college crop are Alabama’s C.J. Mosley and Wisconsin’s Chris Borland.

>>This Road to the Draft segment is driven by Liberty Ford.

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