At this time last year, Cleveland Browns linebacker D’Qwell Jackson was working toward his return to the football field after back-to-back pectoral tears ruined most of the 2009 season and all of 2010.
Sixteen straight starts at middle linebacker and an American Football Conference-leading 158 total tackles later, Jackson was honored by his peers when he came in at No. 96 on “The Top 100: Players in 2012,” which began airing Saturday night on the NFL Network.
Jackson’s 158 tackles were second only to Cleveland native and Washington Redskins linebacker London Fletcher. Jackson’s perseverance and ability to overcome the obstacles of back-to-back major injuries gained league-wide respect.
“D’Qwell’s been a great player, I think, since he’s gotten in this league,” said Houston Texans tight end Owen Daniels. “You’ve got linebackers that can move well laterally; you’ve got linebackers that bring the wood. He’s kind of got everything. Major injuries are tough, for sure. It’s great to see him back in form. D’Qwell flies around the field. He makes plays everywhere.”
Arizona running back Beanie Wells added, “He’s one of those athletic guys that can get to the football and that can run. He had a heck of a year, especially coming off of the injuries that he had in the past and I’m excited that he’s reaping his rewards now.”
Jackson was the anchor of a Browns defense which ranked in the NFL’s top 10 in net passing yards per game (184.9), red zone touchdown percentage (40.8), points-per-game (19.2), yards-per-play (5.1) and total yards per game (332.4). They ranked second in the NFL in net passing yards- per-game and third in red zone touchdown percentage.
“He’s probably a guy that could be on this list every year, if it wasn’t for injury,” Pittsburgh Steelers safety Ryan Clark said in the NFL Network video. “You could honestly see he was the best player on that defense. He was the guy lining people up, making calls, but also the guy making plays.”
Clark would know about Jackson’s ability to make big plays.
Last December, the Steelers were looking for a touchdown on first-and-goal from inside the five-yard line in their game with the Browns on Thursday Night Football. Running back Rashard Mendenhall was stopped four times and the Browns forced the turnover on downs. It was one of four goal line stands for the Browns defense in 2011.
They also had goal line stands at San Francisco (Oct. 30), against Jacksonville (Nov. 20) and at Cincinnati (Nov. 27).
“He’s the type of linebacker you want. He’s an AFC North linebacker,” Clark said. “When he plays us, he makes tons of plays behind the line. He’s a downhill linebacker, he’s a hitter, also plays the pass well. He’s definitely a centerpiece of what the Cleveland Browns can be in the future.”