Over the next week, ClevelandBrowns.com will analyze each position group on the roster with a quick look back at 2016 and an eye toward 2017 and beyond.*
Christian Kirksey — 148 tackles, 2.5 sacks
Demario Davis — 99 tackles, 2 sacks, forced fumble
Jamie Collins — 69 tackles (eight games), 2 sacks, forced fumble
Cam Johnston — 28 tackles, 3 sacks, 2 forced fumbles
**Emmanuel Ogbah — 53 tackles, 5.5 sacks
Joe Schobert — 28 tackles
Dominique Alexander — 7 tackles
Tank Carder — 5 tackles
Nate Orchard — 4 tackles
*Corey Lemonier — 9 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumbles
James Burgess — N/A
- no longer with team
**played both defensive end and linebacker
Rushing yards allowed — 2,283 (31st)
Rushing yards per game allowed — 1142.7 (31st)
Passing yards allowed — 3,996 (21st)
Passing yards per game allowed — 249.8 (21st)
Sacks — 26 (31st)
The following players are restricted or unrestricted free agents heading into 2017:
Jamie Collins (signed four-year extension on Jan. 23)
Quote to note
"Luke Kuechly, he makes great plays, game-changing plays where he'll get an interception at a crucial time and run down the field 60 yards. You've got people like Odell Beckham Jr. making spectacular catches. You have people like Jamie Collins being that big of a guy that can move and make a play on the ball. I think if I really put my mind to it, the sky's the limit for me. Keep working, keep practicing and keep pushing myself to the limit, I think I'll be one of those players you mention." — Kirksey on his breakout season
In an otherwise uneven showing for Cleveland's defense, Kirksey and Collins were quite literally all over the field against Baltimore on Thursday Night Football. The pair combined for 23 tackles, two tackles for loss, a sack and a quarterback hurry.
In Tom Brady's return to the field, the Browns were dominated by the Patriots, who rolled up 501 yards of total offense. In particular, Cleveland's linebackers struggled to match up against New England tight ends in Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett, who combined for 11 catches for 176 yards and three touchdowns.
After three seasons as a role player, Kirksey emerged as one of (if not the) biggest playmakers on the Browns defense. Kirksey led the team in tackles (148) and finished third in the league in stops. Off the field, he assumed something of a leadership role and earned the 2016 Good Guy Award, given annually to a player for his cooperation with the media and for the way the player carries himself in the community and with his teammates.
Outlook for 2017
Between Kirksey and Collins, who signed a four-year extension last week, the future appears to be bright at linebacker. The Browns, with the first and 12th overall picks and five of the top 65 selections, are poised to keep adding talent to the room in addition to second-year players such as Joe Schobert and Dominique Alexander.