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Position Previews

Browns 2018 training camp preview: Analyzing the LBs

It's a two-a-day for our training camp position previews, and we're continuing our analysis of the defense with a look at the most stable group in the entire unit.

The Linebackers

Christian Kirksey
Jamie Collins Sr.
Joe Schobert
Mychal Kendricks
Jermaine Grace
Genard Avery
Justin Currie
James Burgess Jr.
B.J. Bello
Brady Sheldon

What we know: The linebackers are arguably the Browns' most stable unit. Schobert and Kirksey didn't miss a snap last season; Schobert was the lone Browns representative at the Pro Bowl. Collins battled through injuries, including a season-ending knee injury. He was held back during minicamp but should be a full participant in training camp. After Collins went down, Burgess stepped up and started nine games. Collins' return will likely move Burgess into a backup role, but Burgess should still be considered a valuable member of this unit after gaining plenty of experience. It's unknown where Kendricks, who started on the Eagles' Super Bowl winning team last season, will fit into Gregg Williams' defense, but he's expected to play a key role. Kendricks has started in five of his six seasons in the league. Avery, a fifth-round draft pick from Memphis, should earn time on special teams and compete to fill out the rotation. It might not only be the most stable group in the Browns' locker room, but also the deepest.

Biggest question: Where does Kendricks fit? Kendricks played in a 3-4 defense during most of his time in Philadelphia, but Williams' base is a 4-3. Kendricks might slide to the Will linebacker spot, but that's where Kirksey plays; Kirksey's spot is secured. Schobert's coming off a Pro Bowl season and Collins is healthy. It would appear Kendricks, who said the Browns' scheme fits him, will be met with a log jam but the Browns are confident and excited about how they'll incorporate all four. Williams, for one, isn't worried about where Kendricks fits in. "I think that he fits in perfectly here," Williams said. "One of the things that we do here – this staff will be better about this than they were last year because I kind of caught a couple of them off guard – is every player has to play more than one position. That is how we have the flexibility of the 'next man up' during the season and how you play the next best athlete, not the next best on the depth chart. It is the next best athlete. Kendricks fits into that role. He is a multiple-position player. He is able to play inside and outside. He is able to play on the line of scrimmage, off of the line of scrimmage, and he will fit in with the packaging that we do.

X-Factor: Collins' return to a starting role. Schobert and Kirksey have never missed significant time with injuries in the past, so it's possible that both could start all 16 games again for the Browns. Collins has only played 14 for the Browns since he was traded to Cleveland in 2016. The trio has only been on the field together in six games. Schobert and Collins have both made a Pro Bowl in the past, and Kirksey is a candidate to make his first. With the additions of Kendricks and Avery, the Browns could have one of the NFL's best linebacking groups if the unit stays healthy.

Stat tracker: Schobert tied for the league lead last season with 144 combined tackles.

Says it all: "I am excited. We are going to be some dogs. I get to play with some dogs. I get to compete against them. I get to play with them. The more, the better. We want to be a good team. We are going to be a great team. I am glad that I can add to that, and I am glad that I can play beside a bunch of people who are willing to compete and willing to play in this league the same way that I want to." — Kendricks on joining an experienced linebacking group.

How many were kept on last year's 53-man cutdown? 5