In his weekly Sunday column, Terry Pluto of the Plain Dealer discussed the Cleveland Browns' situation at linebacker. He began by stating the obvious -- that the team is pleased with their depth at outside linebacker in Paul Kruger, Jabaal Sheard, Barkevious Mingo, and Quentin Groves.
The concern is at inside linebacker, particularly with the depth. D'Qwell Jackson has been locked in as one of the starters and the overall leader of the entire defense. What about the other inside linebacker position? During the offseason programs, we have heard that Craig Robertson was seeing most, if not all, of the reps on the first-team defense alongside Jackson. Robertson was almost exclusively a nickel linebacker last year, so I was surprised that James-Michael Johnson's name was not coming up more. That is when Pluto dropped a potential bombshell about Johnson:
4. James-Michael Johnson seems nowhere in the plans and is likely to be cut. He was considered a starter by the previous coaching staff. He had some injuries and missed six games. He did play 45 percent of the snaps when he was healthy. But he is lost in this system. Last season, Jackson played 98 percent of the snaps, Robertson played 53 percent. They played in every game.
Digging into the language, there is a difference between someone speculating, "hey, this guy could be a surprise cut," and someone sounding confident in their prediction that a player is "likely to be cut." Pluto cited that Tank Carder and L.J. Fort appear to be the backup inside linebackers right now. I would have to assume that this has been the case throughout the offseason programs so far. If it is, there could be some real merit to the thought that Johnson will end up getting released.
What do you think, Browns fans? Do you expect Johnson to be a big contributor this year, or do you think the switch to the 3-4 defense has him in the need of a change of scenery?
UPDATE: JMJ posted the following to his Twitter account Monday morning:
Had doubters my whole life just more motivation to work harder… I appreciate the doubt and embrace it….. Don’t believe everything you read— James Johnson (@50JMJ) June 10, 2013