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Need to Know: James Burgess ready to fill in for Jamie Collins for rest of season

Posted Nov 16, 2017

Cleveland counting on youngster to fill major void

James Burgess Jr. has been here before. The circumstances are different but the young linebacker is adapting the same mindset.

Burgess is set to fill the void left by Jamie Collins Sr., who was ruled out for the season earlier this week with a knee injury. The second-year Browns linebacker started in Collins’ place earlier in the year when the veteran was out for three games with a concussion.

Now, Burgess is staring down seven more starts to close out what’s been a productive year thus far.

“He is a great dude. He is a heck of a player. You can’t replace him, but I’ll try my best,” Burgess said Thursday. “I stepped in this role before, so it is nothing new.”

Collins has been one of Cleveland’s top defensive playmakers since he arrived midway through last season. Before this year, Burgess, who bounced around the league with a number of teams last year, had never seen the field on defense.

Burgess has done his best to seize every opportunity presented to him. He fought for a spot on the 53-man roster and made a handful of big plays in his limited snaps before Collins’ first injury.

Now, there’s a little bit of stability coming Burgess’ way. It’s just not softening his edge.

“I proved that I belong here,” Burgess said. “Played pretty solid. It was another opportunity, like I said, to show that I belong in this league. Coming from last year not being active at all, it was just a great feeling to be out there playing again, starting again, it was just a great feeling. Injuries are bad. I wish Jamie Collins a speedy recovery, but I will definitely go out there and showcase my talents and do the best I can.”

-- Neither center JC Tretter nor right tackle Shon Coleman practiced Thursday but coach Hue Jackson remains optimistic about one or both of the offensive linemen being available Sunday against the Jaguars.

“We will know more today about where we are,” Jackson said. “Once I leave here, I will get with the medical staff, but I feel confident that these guys both have a chance to be back playing.”

Both Tretter and Coleman have started every game this season. If Tretter is unavailable, Austin Reiter, who started once last season, would be the likely replacement. If Coleman can’t play, rookie Zach Banner would take his place.

-- Linebacker Joe Schobert is expecting a “Big Ten” type of game Sunday, and it has only a little to do with the expected winter conditions.

Cleveland has emphasized the importance of running the ball after compiling a season-high 201 yards last week at Detroit. On the flip side, Jacksonville enters Sunday’s game ranked first by nearly 20 yards in rushing offense (163 per game). Rookie Leonard Fournette is the bell cow of the group and has found the end zone in nearly every one of his starts.

“This is the first time we are really going to see 21 personnel this season,” Schobert said. “They run a lot of 21 personnel. They use their fullback. They don’t just come in for show and switch it right back out to 11 the next play. It is going to be a lot of smash mouth football, downhill runs, I think on both sides. Ready to roll.”

Schobert, then a linebacker at Wisconsin, played against Fournette when he was a freshman at LSU at the start of the 2014 season. The Badgers limited Fournette to 18 yards on eight carries.

Schobert’s hoping Cleveland’s fourth-ranked rush defense can do something similar.

“He is fast. He is a big-bodied guy, but when he gets out in the open field, you see him pull away from some safeties and corners sometimes so you have to be able to rally,” Schobert said. “I think at Wisconsin last year, they did a good job of making him stop his feet before he could get the train rolling. If we are able to do that, and teams have done that to them this year, if we are able to get that accomplished, I think we would be in good shape.”

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