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Step Aside, Troy Polamalu, Ray Lewis, and James Harrison...

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...there's a new force in the AFC North, and his name is D'Qwell Jackson.

The Browns' starting middle linebacker was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Month for his strong work in September. It's great to see Jackson doing so well, and it's something most fans did not come to expect. Jackson has been a likeable but only slightly above average linebacker in his career, and he missed most/all of the past two seasons to injury. The expectations for him weren't through the roof by any means heading into this season.

In the preseason, Jackson looked like a machine. So far, he has kept up the same intensity during the regular season. Those two years of limited activity might have freshened him up, and the switch back to the 4-3 defense seems to be helping as well.

Jackson leads the team by far with 30 tackles. He's also tied for the team lead in sacks at 2.5. He also has one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. Maybe we should have seen this burst in production coming. During the 2008 season, the last one that Jackson was at full strength for, he finished the season with 154 tackles, 2 sacks, and 3 interceptions. Jackson is currently on pace for 160 tackles, so we'll see if he's able to keep things up and break his own personal record.

"It doesn't surprise me that he's playing at an extremely high level," Browns coach Pat Shurmur said. "I expected it based on what I've learned about him in the last few months. Normally when your Mike linebacker is playing well and doing good things, it adds a huge boost to your defense, and I'm glad for that." [Link]

Mary Kay Cabot of the Plain Dealer says the team has not talked with Jackson about an extension yet, but plan to do so in the near future:

#Browns haven't yet started extension talks w/ Dqwell Jackson, but will at some point. Both sides want him here longterm.
Sep 29 via Twitter for iPhoneFavoriteRetweetReply

Congrats, DQ!

Hat tip to notthatnoise for posting a FanShot about this.