The Browns entered Sunday night's contest against the defending NFC champion Los Angeles Rams without starting linebacker Christian Kirksey, a defensive leader both in production and motivation. The unit was without its author of the "dawg check."
No worries, for Mack Wilson was ready to fill the void.
The rookie linebacker stepped into the starting lineup in place of Kirksey and had a solid first outing, recording five tackles and coming painfully close to securing his first interception. He did the little things in between well for the most part, too, helping lessen the blow of losing Kirksey.
He said after the game he did so by mirroring what his veteran teammate had done in the first two weeks.
"When I was out there tonight, I was just thinking about Kirko, how hard he played, all the passion that he played with," Wilson said. "I just (applied) that to my game and just went out and tried to compete every play."
Wilson was flying around the field, playing the box and matching up with pass-catchers lined up as wide as outside the numbers. Most times, he was in the proper position and proved he can be a starting linebacker in the NFL.
Not bad for a fifth-round pick.
Wilson said his play was driven by the defense's identity, established by head coach Freddie Kitchens back in July at the start of training camp.
"We're going to try to be the most physical group on the field," Wilson said. "That's always our approach. When we on the field, it's one play at a time, beat your man. Be physical, do you job. We held each other accountable."
Holding each other accountable saw the Browns hold the Rams to under 350 total yards of offense, force three turnovers and come within 4 yards of tying Los Angeles near the end of regulation. Despite the loss, it was a commendable effort from a defense that started four new defensive backs plus Wilson due to mounting injuries.
"That was a hard loss. That one hurt," Wilson said. "We've just got to go see the things that we messed up on and go back to the drawing board, keep working, keep getting better."
Check out photos of the Browns in action against the Rams on Sunday Night Football