The football gods have been cruel in dealing out injuries to the Browns this season.
The Browns lost Pro Bowl center Alex Mack for the season in week six. Standout tight end Jordan Cameron has missed four games this season due to a concussion. Defensive tackle Phil Taylor was placed on injured reserve on November 14.
The situation grew worse on Sunday against the Texans, as the Browns lost linebackers Karlos Dansby and Jabaal Sheard.
In his weekly press conference on Monday, head coach Mike Pettine said that Dansby could be out for a month because of an injured left knee and Sheard could be out the rest of the season due to an issue involving a bone in his left foot.
UPDATE 11/19: Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reported on Wednesday morning that Sheard will not need surgery. He could return as early as this week against the Falcons.
Big sigh of relief for #Browns LB Jabaal Sheard. After second opinion, no surgery is necessary on his foot. Should be back in a week or so.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) November 19, 2014
Source confirms NFL Network's report. #Browns OLB Jabaal Sheard (foot) doesn't need surgery and should be back soon. Considered day to day.— Nate Ulrich (@NateUlrichABJ) November 19, 2014
An 11-year veteran, Dansby has a team-best 73 tackles on the season. The team leader left the game midway through the second quarter when another player accidentally rolled up on his leg. Dansby, who served as the de facto quarterback of the defense, has not missed a game since 2010.
A 2011 second round draft pick, Sheard has 36 tackles and two sacks on the year. The Pitt product left the game in the third quarter, sustaining the injury while rushing the passer. As noted by Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal, Sheard's rookie deal expires in March.
As of right now, it appears that Craig Robertson will take Dansby's place and Barkevious Mingo will play for Sheard (if he is unable to play on Sunday against Atlanta).
Robertson will bear a great deal of responsibility. He will serve as the play caller in the defensive huddle as the middle linebacker. The third year defender has started five of the Browns' ten games this season, notching 40 tackles, two passes defensed, and one interception.
The Browns have used Mingo primarily in coverage this season. The 2013 first round pick recorded five sacks last season, but only has one to date. The former LSU Tiger has a total of 29 tackles this season along with one pass defensed.
Mingo is also dealing with injury problems, as he is still suffering through a shoulder injury sustained against the Steelers on September 7. The outside linebacker has been wearing harness ever since.
Head coach Mike Pettine updated Cleveland.com's Mary Kay Cabot with Mingo's shoulder status on Monday.
"It's not 100 percent," he said. "I don't know how much – I couldn't put a percentage on it, what he's regained. It's been tough for him to play. Having an arm harnessed, strapped down, it has an effect."
The Browns will still need Mingo to play a large role in the defense, despite having only good good arm.
Chris Kirksey will also need to step up, as the rookie will slide into the starting role at weakside linebacker. The Iowa product has 50 tackles and two sacks on the year.
Other players who will figure into the picture include Tank Carder and Eric Martin. Carder previously served as primarily a special teams player, but he will now be the backup to both Robertson and Kirksey. Martin has appeared in eight games this season, notching three tackles.
The Browns also reinforced the position today with a few personnel moves. On Tuesday, the team signed Zac Diles, a nine-year veteran who has played in just one game for Houston this season. Diles was on the Browns' roster during the preseason, so the move makes sense.
The team also signed Scott Solomon to its practice squad early Tuesday evening. The 26-year-old linebacker has played for the Titans, Jets, and most recently for the Buccaneers. Solomon saw action in six games for Tampa Bay this season, logging eight tackles, a sack, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery.
#Browns have resigned LB Zac Diles. They also re-signed DT Jaccobi McDaniel and LB Scott Solomon to practice squad.— Tom Reed (@treed1919) November 18, 2014
Hopefully for the Browns, this ragtag assortment of linebackers will be able to cure the defense's woes against the run.