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Training Camp Story of the Day

Mack Wilson believes LBs can 'prove the world wrong' despite abundance of youth

Mack Wilson has heard all of the opinions and seen all of the predictions about the Browns' linebackers for this season.

The position room is full of young and promising players eager to take a big step in 2020. Wilson, a 2019 fifth-round pick, is one of them, but early season predictions don't often favor a position room that lacks NFL experience.

Wilson thinks that's unfair.

"I know the guys in the room have seen it, and I make sure that I remind those guys of what these people think of us," Wilson said. "I just always tell them, 'We are going to prove the world wrong. We are just going to continue to work. Keep our heads down and just focus on the task at hand.'"

That's been the M.O. of a linebackers group that certainly doesn't lack confidence ahead of its first season without Christian Kirksey or Joe Schobert since 2014.

Yes, the group is young. Its oldest player is B.J. Goodson, who is 27 and is in his fifth NFL season.

And yes, the group isn't necessarily glowing with NFL experience. Just two players, Goodson and Tae Davis, have more than two full years in the league.

But Wilson is adamant the group doesn't need experience or age to be great. His own play from last season backs that up — he played in all 16 games as a 21-year old rookie and finished second on the Browns with 82 tackles.

The Browns might not have linebackers that will crack a preseason All-Pro watch list, but Wilson believes that doesn't always define the overall talent of a positional group. At least not yet — none of the young players have been given a chance to prove their skills in the NFL.

Once they do, Wilson thinks the people sleeping on them will wake up.

"I feel like they are just going based off big-time names of guys who are on different teams," Wilson said. "We have guys in our linebacker room who really did not make a name for themselves yet. We are looking to do that this year. Like I said, it is total disrespect when you talk about guys being the worst linebacker core."

Check out photos from the second day of Browns Camp

One of the youngest players of the group is Jacob Phillips, who was drafted by the Browns out of LSU in the third round of the 2020 draft. Phillips is only 21, but he could carry a considerable load of snaps in his rookie season if he performs well in training camp.

Wilson has known Phillips since his sophomore year. Even though Wilson, who played at Alabama, holds a rivalry toward LSU players, Phillips was always someone who stood out for his work ethic and athleticism.

He's versatile, too, and can play both the middle and outside positions, and that might make Phillips an even more valuable piece for a linebackers room with starting vacancies at all positions.

Oh, and Wilson doesn't want anyone to forget: just because he's young doesn't mean he can't be great.

"I have always been like a big brother to him," Wilson said. "We stayed in connection with one another. He can do a lot of great things. I feel like he has been doing a great job of just working hard, taking it one day at a time and not getting frustrated. I just try to do whatever I can to make him comfortable and to help him in any way."

At the top of the veteran totem pole, of course, is Goodson, a fourth-round pick by the New York Giants in 2016. After accruing 22 starts and 98 tackles in the last two seasons, he's looking to solidify another starting role in Cleveland and help the other young linebackers take a big step.

Goodson also has experience at every linebacker position, and he's not afraid to use his voice before the snap to relay offensive signals to the rest of the defense. That's one of the reasons Wilson sees him as a player capable of gluing the room together and bringing the most out of every player — no matter their age.

"I have learned a lot from him," Wilson said. "Just his energy, he is always there every day and his vocal leadership that he shows on the field. You can just tell he has that experience with being in the NFL for five years. It kind of rubs off on all of us in the room. He is the leader for us in the room because of the experience he has."

Even though the projections might not say it, Wilson believes the Browns have the tools in place to excel at the linebacker position. His performance in 2020 will likely be a factor as to how far the group can go.

But in the linebacker room, no one lacks confidence.

"They're going to see," Wilson said. "We are just going to keep working and show everybody."

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