Breaking down the Browns' 2017 season, position by position. Today we're looking at Cleveland's linebackers.*
By the numbers:
Joe Schobert — 16 games, 16 starts; 144 tackles, 3 sacks, 3 FF, 1 INT
Christian Kirksey — 16 games, 16 starts; 138 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 2 FF
James Burgess Jr. — 14 games, 9 starts; 75 tackles, 4 sacks, 1 FF
Jamie Collins — 6 games, 6 starts; 31 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT
How was 2017?Schobert and Kirksey were two of the NFL's most productive linebackers, racking up 144 and 138 tackles, respectively. Those figures were the first and fourth best in the league. And when Pro Bowler Jamie Collins Sr. went down — undoubtedly a significant blow to a defense counting on his playmaking ability — former practice squad member James Burgess Jr. stepped up in a big way with 75 tackles and four sacks. Cleveland's linebackers, of course, also played a huge role in what was one of the league's best run defenses.
Reasons to be optimistic? Kirksey turned in another productive season after his breakout campaign in 2016 and Schobert, who moved from outside to middle linebacker over the offseason, earned a trip to the Pro Bowl in his first year as a starter. Collins, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in November, should make a full recovery while Burgess proved himself on the field and earned praise from defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.
What might happen this offseason?The Browns return their trio of starters while Burgess likely found a niche in the lineup. Tank Carder, a captain in 2016 who went down in training camp with a knee injury, will also be back and compete for playing time.