Can you believe it? Training camp is just under two weeks away. It's been another busy offseason for the Browns, and we'll start seeing how all the new and refined pieces come together very soon. We're preparing for it all with a comprehensive preview of every position on the roster,rolling next with the linebackers.
Tony Fields II
Charlie Thomas II
What we know: The Browns opted to not change much at this position one year after injuries forced them to dig deep into their depth. The starters will likely be the same as a year ago, and the biggest offseason transaction at linebacker was the re-signing of Walker, who missed all but three games last season due to a torn quad. Owusu-Koramoah, Takitaki and Phillips all played more games than Walker but also all finished the season on injured reserve, and the Browns are banking on all of them to turn in healthier seasons. Adams was also the most notable free-agent addition to the position in the offseason and has been a quality special teams player across five NFL seasons. He spent the first four of those years playing under new Browns special teams coordinator Bubba Ventrone when he was the Colts' special teams coordinator.
What we don't know: Because injuries hit the group so hard last season, it'll be intriguing to see how much more talented the group can become if the top starters manage to stay healthy. Walker is an outstanding tackler and one of the team's biggest leaders who was sorely missed after his injury, while Owusu-Koramoah and Phillips will each again have an opportunity to show growth. Takitaki was playing well before his injury last season, too, and gives the Browns a solid depth piece who is capable of starting games and playing vital roles on special teams.
The X-Factor: Walker. His importance to the linebacker room and defense as a whole was glaring in the games he missed last season and was one reason why the defense struggled to stay consistent throughout the year. Walker is an extremely smart player who could even be considered a player-coach for the defense with the way he directs other players around him during games, and his return will certainly go a long way toward building a better year from the defense.
The biggest number: 35. That's the combined games missed last season from Walker, Owusu-Koramoah, Phillips and Takitaki. The Browns are confident each of those players will rebound with healthier, better seasons, and they showed that faith by choosing to keep the linebacker core in-tact with no major additions or changes to the room this offseason.
Says it all: "Whether we're involved in the blitz or whether it's the four D-linemen, their job is to mess stuff up — wreck things. Our job is to fix it. As a linebacker, we're back off the ball and we've got to fix what's in front of us. We can play really fast if we know what we're doing and we know the calls. How Coach (Jim) Schwartz says it — and I like it — is it's like the times tables: two times four equals eight. You don't have to know all the crazy chemistry classes that I took, but we've got to know our job quickly so we can react quickly. That's the challenge, and that's our job in this defense." - LBs coach Jason Tarver on how the linebacker's roles will change in new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz's defense.
How many were kept on the initial 53-man roster last year?: 6