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Assessing the Browns linebacker unit progression through the season


The Browns' linebacker room has been exceptional this season, with two players having their best season yet and one showing exemplary leadership on and off the field.

The group's impact on the field has been the most consistent on the defensive side this season. The Browns linebacker corps have missed a total of four games all coming from one player. As a group, they have a total of 211 tackles, have forced three fumbles and caught three interceptions.

The three linebackers who have played the most this season are Anthony Walker Jr., Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and Sione Takitaki. Walker was named captain this season and played the most snaps until his hamstring injury in Week 12. In Week 13 he was limited to 37, and in Week 14, his last game of the season, he played 52 snaps.

Walker in 12 games this season, had 44 tackles, a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries. He has been a leader on and off the field for the Browns. He has volunteered at numerous events this year, leading to his nomination for the 2023 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award Presented by Nationwide.

With Walker still sidelined, Owusu-Koramoah and Takitaki have had to step up. Owusu-Koramoah has thrived in his third year in the NFL, as he's shown his speed, awareness and tackling ability this season for one of the best defenses in the league. 

"I think for me, I've been around coach (Jason) Tarver enough, been around the players enough to be able to kind of adjust and adapt to the system into which we play, how we feel each other," Owusu-Koramoah said. "But, yeah, I think that for me, I think the more time, the more comfortability and the more intensity that you put into the time you get, the better results you get."

Check out photos of the team working to prepare for the Cincinnati Bengals

Owusu-Koramoah had one of his best games in his career in Week 12 when, at the time, was his season high in snaps. He racked up 12 tackles, one sack and one forced fumble. In Week 14 – his most snaps taken in a game this season – he led the team in tackles with eight solo and had two tackles for loss. 

He is having the best season of his young career. In 16 games this season, he has 101 tackles, two interceptions and 3.5 sacks. He leads the team in tackles with 101 and tackles for loss with 20. 

"But for me, I would have wanted to have some more tackles for loss," Owusu-Koramoah said. "I would want to have some more interceptions, more forced fumbles. More tackles. But again, that's the process, though. That's the process that we have to go through to become the player that we want for ourselves."

Owusu-Koramoah has been playing very well, but his partner Takitaki has also improved weekly. In the Browns last game against the Jets on Dec. 28, Takitaki led the team with 16 total tackles, including a career-high 11 solo tackles.

Takitaki has played in 567 snaps this season but has just now been playing more snaps. In the first 10 weeks, he didn't have a game over 39 snaps. From Weeks 11 through 17, he has had five games over 40 snaps.

This season, Takitaki has 66 tackles, two sacks and three pass deflections. He has spent five seasons with the Browns and understands the team has an opportunity in front of them. He knows the importance of the linebacker group for the team's long-term goals. 

As a tandem, the group had one of their better games in Week 16 against the Texans on the road. The game was important because the Browns were 2-4 entering the game on the road, and with the win, improved to 3-4 and showcased their potential for success on the road. The Browns' linebackers were also all over the field against the Texans. 

Owusu-Koramoah had six tackles, an interception and two pass deflections. He led the team with seven tackles against Houston, as he was focused on stopping the run and helping his team win a crucial road game.  Takitaki also played good coverage and showed quick decision-making skills that don't show in the stat sheet.  Overall, the Browns held the Texans to 72 rushing yards. 

"I felt like we emphasized playing better on the road, just struggling early on, and we emphasized that knowing that we got to play better on the road," Takitaki said. "And I feel like we went out there in Houston and executed. And that's going to be the same mindset this week, going on the road, playing a good game, getting that W."

The Browns secured the fifth seed in the 2023 playoffs. But before looking ahead, they will face off against a division rival. HC Kevin Stefanski mentioned that the team will still look to play hard and win against the Bengals despite clinching. Takitaki sees the final game of the regular season as a stepping stone before heading into the playoffs.

"I feel like that's important for us leading into the playoffs," Takitaki said. "We have to focus on this game, and it'll set everything up after that and you don't want to look too far ahead. Everybody in the locker room is focused on this week and going 1-0. They're going to keep score. A division opponent, that's a big game to a lot of guys in the locker room, including myself and we're ready for it."