#BrownsCamp position preview: LBs form backbone of new-look defense



Jamie Collins Sr.

Christian Kirksey

Tank Carder

Joe Schobert

Dominique Alexander

Kenneth Olugbode

James Burgess

B.J. Bello

Ladell Fleming

Deon King

What happened at OTAs:

— The Browns extended both Jamie Collins Sr. and Christian Kirksey, identifying them as cornerstone types of players on a young defense starting to come into form. Collins, a 2015 Pro Bowler who re-signed after less than a full season in Cleveland, is poised to flourish under new coordinator Gregg Williams and linebackers coach Blake Williams. A few months later, Kirksey also inked a four-year deal following a breakout season that saw him total 148 tackles. Kirksey, who emerged as a leader amid a 1-15 season, continued to take on that role in offseason workouts.

— After trading Demario Davis back to the New York Jets in June, veteran backer Tank Carder finds himself poised to take on an expanded role and did so for the remainder of OTAs.

— Nate Orchard, Cam Johnson and Emmanuel Ogbah (who played the latter half of 2016 exclusively at defensive end) all moved to the defensive line after having been listed as linebackers last season.

Under the radar:While the Browns didn't draft a linebacker in 2017, they welcome a host of undrafted free agent rookies who will compete for roster spots in the coming weeks. That group includes Kenneth Olugbode, B.J. Bello and Ladell Fleming. Of note, Olugbode has a particularly interesting backstory, having totaled the 16th most tackles (299) in Colorado football history. He posted 13 career games with 10 or more stops with the Buffs.

Variables to consider:It appears to be a wide-open competition at middle linebacker. Carder, who enters his seventh season with the Browns, should have the first crack at earning the starting job and recently spoke highly of Williams and his approach to defense. So should second-year backers Joe Schobert and Dominique Alexander, who will both have the chance to expand their roles after making an impact on special teams as rookies.

Quote to note: "He's given us the opportunity to just go out there and play ball. He's given us this confidence that what we do and what we learn in the film room, just come out here and let it loose. Just come out here and play football. We've all been at it since we were little kids so he's just putting us in the best position to win. He's making us become more of a student of the game and just allowing us to play fast. Gregg is doing an extremely good job right now, and I just cannot wait until the season to see how everything comes into shape." - Kirksey on Gregg Williams

Stat tracker: Kirksey's 148 stops in 2016 were the third-most in the NFL. He also made at least nine tackles in 10 games and played all but two defensive snaps last season.

How many were kept at last year's 53-man cutdown?:  9

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content