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Reviewing the LBs: Injuries force Browns to dig deep into depth chart

The Browns were tasked to overcome a seemingly endless wave of season-ending injuries in their linebackers room


The Browns are about a month removed from the 2022 season and are making plans for improvements in 2023. Doing so, however, will require looking back at how each position fared, and we'll be doing that ourselves at with a comprehensive breakdown of each spot on the roster.

Next up: the linebackers

The Raw Numbers

Rushing yards allowed per game: 135.0 (25th in NFL)

Rushing yards allowed per carry: 4.7 (25th in NFL)

Anthony Walker Jr.: 3 games, 13 tackles, 4 TFLs, 2 pass breakups

Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah: 11 games, 70 tackles, 7 TFLs, 4 pass breakups, 2 forced fumbles

Jacob Phillips: 7 games, 46 tackles, 2 TFLs, 2 sacks, 1 pass breakup

Sione Takitaki: 12 games, 71 tackles, 4 TFLs, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble

Deion Jones: 11 games, 44 tackles, 6 TFLs, 2.5 sacks, 3 pass breakups, 1 forced fumble

Tony Fields: 17 games, 48 tackles, 1 interception, 1 TFL, 1 forced fumble

Jordan Kunaszyk: 15 games, 22 tackles, 1 pass breakup, 1 forced fumble

Jermaine Carter Jr.: 7 games, 16 tackles,

Reggie Ragland: 4 games, 14 tackles

Tae Davis: 5 games, 5 tackles

Analysis in 150 Words or Less

The story of the Browns' linebackers in 2022, unfortunately, starts with injuries, which impacted the group's production all season. The bad injury luck started with Walker, the position's top player and a defensive captain who suffered a season-ending injury in Week 3. Over the next 11 games, three of the other top linebackers — Owusu-Koramoah, Phillips and Takitaki — joined him on injured reserve. The Browns had no choice but to lean on guys who either started the season near the bottom of the depth chart or players who were acquired to patch holes, and the constant change was one reason why the Browns struggled to stop the run and make game-changing plays in the middle of their defense.

High Point

The best performance by a linebacker all season came from Fields in Week 12 in a win against the Texans. A 2021 fifth-round pick, Fields tallied his first career interception, touchdown, forced fumble and fumble recovery all in the same game and was the MVP of the Browns' 27-14 win. His big plays came on a day when the offense, which featured the Browns debut for QB Deshaun Watson after a 700-day absence between starts, struggled to move the ball and find points. Fields, however, helped the Browns' defense and special teams do what was needed to secure the road win.

Low Point

The linebackers — and defense as a whole — couldn't do much in the Browns' 23-10 loss to the Bengals in Week 14. Jones did record an interception, but Bengals RB Joe Mixon still rushed for 96 yards and his backup, Samaje Perine, scored a touchdown. To make matters worse, Owusu-Koramoah suffered an injury and was carted from the field late in the game. He became the fourth linebacker to be placed on injured reserve with a season-ending injury.

Who's Back for 2023?

Owusu-Koramoah, Phillips and Fields are all under contract for next season.

Who's a Potential Free Agent?

Walker, Takitaki, Jones, Kunaszyk, Carter and Ragland could become unrestricted free agents in March.

2023 Outlook

The Browns could opt to add new pieces to the position in 2023. They could also decide to re-sign a few of the top players who are set to become free agents and look to run it back with a group that likely would've played much better had injuries not crushed the position. Those decisions could come down to how new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz prefers to mold the defense, but no matter what, the Browns know they'll have at least two young and still-growing players at the position in Owusu-Koramoah and Phillips.