It's time to move on to the inside linebacker position for our 2016 Cleveland Browns training camp preview. In part 1, we look at Demario Davis, Christian Kirksey, and Scooby Wright. In part 2, we'll discuss Tank Carder, Justin Tuggle, and Dominique Alexander.
1. DEMARIO DAVIS - STARTING INSIDE LINEBACKER
Davis was a third-round pick by the Jets in 2012, a team he spent the past four years with. He's played in all 64 games of his career and has been a starter for the past three years. Davis had 107 tackles in 2013, 116 tackles in 2014, and 90 tackles in 2015. In terms of ability, he sounds a lot like the ' and D'Qwell Jackson's of the world -- he isn't going to make high-impact plays, but he'll be on the field for every snap and will be stable enough to get by with.
Davis (ranked 69th of 94 LBs in 2015) shouldn’t be returning. He struggled in all phases of the game, especially tackling the ball carrier. His tackling efficiency of 6.4 (making six tackles before missing one) ranked 58th among 69 LBs.
Dansby was known for his pass coverage, but really struggled the past couple of years at stopping the run. Davis is the complete opposite type of player -- at his best, he's a solid run defender but is below average in coverage.
Final Roster Odds: 100%
2. CHRISTIAN KIRKSEY - STARTING INSIDE LINEBACKER
Now entering his third season, fans are ready for Christian Kirksey to stop being a player who is full-of-potential and become one who delivers game-changing plays on a weekly basis.
Kirksey had 53 tackles and 3.5 sacks last season, but he didn't have the breakout season many had predicted as he continued to work as a rotational player with Craig Robertson. Now that Robertson has departed and the depth behind him is still relatively thin compared to other positions on the team, 2016 should be his time more than ever to shine.
Historically, Kirksey's strengths were that he was an efficient tackler, a good pass-rusher, and that he could cover well. In that sense, he complements Demario Davis well, as Kirksey isn't as sharp against the run. Instead of playing half the snaps per game, Kirksey should be looking to take on a bigger role in his first time in a Ray Horton defense. He also got in to it with Jeremy Hill after he jumped in to the Dawg Pound during a blowout last year. That was met with mixed feelings at the time -- while it was one of the few signs of heart shown by the team all game, it made some ponder, "where is that emotion and pride the rest of the game?" Looking back, I hope it's something that sticks with Kirksey and that he plays with a chip on his shoulder to ensure the defense never hits a low point like that again.
Final Roster Odds: 100%
3. SCOOBY WRIGHT - ROOKIE INSIDE LINEBACKER
When the Browns drafted Scooby Wright with their final pick in the 7th round, fans were elated, and so was Scooby. (Side note: traditionally, we refer to players' last names only after the first time we mention it. It just feels right to make an exception here and sometimes go with "Scooby" instead of "Wright.")
Look how ecstatic fans were with the Scooby selection:
Wright isn't the best athlete, so you shouldn't expect him to be playing man-to-man coverage with a tight end downfield. He's a tough, hard-working kid who plays the run well, which could make him a candidate to play in some short-yardage run defense situations. He was also projected by some to be a 3rd- or 4th-round pick, and fans can always get behind perceived "value" picks (see the support for Rashard Higgins, a 5th-rounder who was projected to be a 2nd-rounder).
Wright is expected to contribute on special teams, which could put him in competition with Tank Carder. As far as inside linebacker goes, the team will trying to determine who should be next-in-line after Demario Davis and Christian Kirksey. The top candidates are Wright, Carder, and Justin Tuggle, although Joe Schobert could fill that void too if the team settles on that position for him.
Final Roster Odds: 60%
Today's poll asks which position on defense is the weakest -- inside linebacker, safety, or something else.