B.J. Goodson's biggest skill as an NFL linebacker might be his confidence.
That's not a knock on any of his abilities — the four-year veteran has accrued 160 career tackles with the New York Giants and Green Bay Packers, including 37 in 15 games last season. But Goodson, who signed a one-year deal with the Browns in March, believes his numbers can grow even larger inside Cleveland's defense, or any defense, for that matter.
"I have tremendous, tremendous, tremendous – not to sound arrogant or anything – faith in my game," Goodson said Thursday in a Zoom call with local reporters. "I feel very confident in my game. Being able to be aggressive, play aggressive and fly around, I just love it."
The Browns will welcome Goodson's confidence into a young linebacker room full of promise. The position is one of the biggest question marks Cleveland will carry into training camp, and it's anybody's guess as to who will land the Week 1 starting jobs.
Goodson's experience makes him an automatic frontrunner. Mack Wilson and Sione Takitaki, two 2018 draft picks, are strong candidates, too, and Wilson did a solid job as a starter in 14 games last season.
After Goodson and Wilson, the experience dips. Takitaki made 21 tackles in 15 games last season, and Tae Davis and Jermaine Grace have combined for 51 games as positional depth. Willie Harvey, Montrel Meander, Jacob Phillips (a 2020 third-round draft pick) and Solomon Ajayi (an undrafted free agent) are all still getting acclimated to NFL talent.
Check out photos of linebacker B.J. Goodson
No matter where Goodson lands on the Browns' depth chart, his presence will be key. If he's a starter, he'll likely be tasked with leading the defense from the middle linebacker position. If he's a backup, then it likely means Browns defensive coordinator Joe Woods is ready to test the younger players. Goodson's veteran presence will still be valuable, and he'd provide top-tier depth.
His Week 1 position, however, doesn't concern Goodson. He might be the oldest player of the group, but he's still 26. There's room to grow in his game, too, and he's eager to tap into it to ensure his spot with the Browns is as good as it can be.
"I don't even look at it like that," Goodson said. "I take things a day at a time. Just laying one brick as perfectly as possible as I can, and whatever happens, happens."
For Goodson, laying those bricks means following a routine. He's emphasized a weekly routine in his four years in the league, but his current daily plan looks much different than previous years.
If it weren't for the COVID-19 pandemic, Goodson would be spending most days with his new teammates at the Browns headquarters in Berea for offseason OTAs. The daily routine would be outlined from the team, and players would be entrenched in meetings, conditioning and their first practice reps on the turf.
Instead, no players have used the facilities. Their only practice and communication has been through the NFL's virtual offseason program. It's not ideal for a player like Goodson, who's doing his best to build relationships with everyone in the linebackers room, but he's created a personal routine for himself that has kept him in shape with his new team.
It starts early in the morning at his home in South Carolina. He begins with his own personal workout, then completes the workout planned for all Browns linebackers that day. Then, he studies for a few hours before diving into team Zoom meetings.
"Keeping myself in a routine and making sure I am on schedule every single day and that I am in a routine is very important to me because that is what I would be doing if I was there," Goodson said. "Those guys, they would have us in a routine and have us doing things a set way. I try to self-discipline myself and do things that way."
The daily schedule has allowed Goodson to keep up with everything but … chemistry. It's the one thing that can only be developed so much through a computer screen. Goodson, who will be tasked with mentoring the young group of linebackers, is doing his best to build relationships when the group has their own players-only Zoom chats after team meetings, but it's not the same as the chats that normally happen inside the locker room.
Goodson is confident, though, that the unique circumstances will only bring the players even closer when they're finally back as a team in the same building.
"It is hard to explain the camaraderie that comes with the locker room, so we are trying to fill that void of us not being around each other," Goodson said. "When we are on those calls and things of that nature, guys are trying to let loose and show their personality. We always have a brief moment to just share and talk about how things are going outside of football and outside of learning the scheme. I feel like we are doing a great job as far as that goes."
When players do return, the competition for the starting linebacker positions will officially begin. Goodson has the pedigree to grab it and potentially earn an opportunity to stay in Cleveland for longer than his one-year deal.
If his performance on the field backs up the confidence he has in himself, then some of the questions the Browns have at linebacker will be answered, and Goodson could be there to stay beyond 2020.
That, of course, would be his preference.
"If you ask me, I will just tell you that I prepare and I am able to perform as well as any other linebacker in the league," he said. "I feel very confident in that with the opportunity given."