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Cleveland Browns Training Camp 2015: ILB Preview, Part 1

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Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

After covering the Cleveland Browns' outside linebackers, now it's time to shift our attention to the inside linebackers. In Part 1 of our training camp preview, we look at the three players who are expected to contribute the most, and it's identical to what we had a year ago.


8276_mediumKarlos Dansby (#56)

6-3 | Weight: 251
Age: 33 | Experience: 12 years
College: Auburn

Note: Veteran who was among best in NFL last season. ... Wants to improve his play vs. the run.

Karlos Dansby's first season in Cleveland was not a disappointment. It was a debated move to replace long-time Brown D'Qwell Jackson with another veteran, but Dansby continued to show why, even at his age, he's one of the best in the business:

A good first year in Cleveland for Dansby who was exceptional in coverage where he had the second-highest grade of all inside linebackers. Slipped a little as he made less of an impact against the run than in 2013 (he only had 26 run stops) but when you’re as good in the passing game as Dansby you’re always in contention to get end of season awards. -PFF

For as good as he was, Dansby still wants to get better. He's been vocal about wanting to improve his run defense in his second year with the club, citing the fact that he made mistakes in alignments last season. Dansby was also instrumental in recruiting veteran defensive lineman Randy Starks to join the club this offseason.

Dansby played in 10 games before suffering a knee injury last year. He was projected to miss a month but was trying to go through an accelerated rehab to return after just one game. The coaching staff still held him out for four games, but he returned for the team's final two contests despite Cleveland already falling out of playoff contention. Dansby is under contract for three more years, so he could finish out his career with the Browns.

Final Roster Odds: 100%


8276_mediumCraig Robertson (#53)

6-1 | Weight: 234
Age: 27 | Experience: 4 years
College: North Texas

Note: Coming off of a rebound season after struggling in coverage in 2013. ... Will be a free agent next year.

Last year, I gave Craig Robertson a job security grade of an "F" heading into training camp. His inability to make plays in the passing game led me to believe he'd be sent to the bench with Chris Kirksey absorbing the bulk of the playing time. Instead, Robertson responded with a career year.

Robertson's improvements in coverage did not go unnoticed, although he also wasn't asked to do as many things in Mike Pettine's defense. Instead of being a liability against tight ends, he could win his fair share of battles and even came away with two interceptions. When Dansby was injured, Robertson assumed his role and flourished, logging 53 tackles over 5 games.

Robertson was a restricted free agent this offseason, and the Browns signed him to a second-round tender. He will become an unrestricted free agent next year. Although Robertson is a nice piece to the defense, long-term, when you look at Dansby's age and Kirksey already on the roster, I think they will let Robertson walk to a team that will pay him more money.

Final Roster Odds: 100%


8276_mediumChris Kirksey (#58)

6-2 | Weight: 235
Age: 22 | Experience: 2 years
College: Iowa

Note: Coming off of a decent rookie season. ... Strength is in passing situations, could improve vs. the run.

Chris Kirksey saw the same amount of playing time as a rookie last year than Craig Robertson did, and I expect the time share to continue in 2015.

Kirksey had a decent rookie season, logging 75 tackles and 2 sacks. In terms of playing time usage, Robertson was tasked with defending the run more, while Kirksey's role leaned a little more toward rushing the passer or playing in coverage. Kirksey showed he could hold his own in coverage, which is a great sign for a player's first season. He also didn't miss many tackles, according to Pro Football Focus.

In an ideal world, Kirksey's area to improve in would be defending the run. That might not be his long-term strength, though, which is why Cleveland could look to find a new starter in 2015 while keeping Kirksey around in the role he's currently fulfilling.

Final Roster Odds: 100%

Next up, we'll take a look at the backup inside linebackers. Today's poll asks whether you would keep the playing time between Craig Robertson and Chris Kirksey fairly even again, or if you'd commit more time to seeing how Kirksey can play.