After covering the top four linebackers on the Cleveland Browns, it’s time to look at the players with the best shot at landing a depth role heading into training camp.
5. James Burgess - Backup Outside Linebacker
Height: 6-0 | Weight: 230 lbs | Age: 24
Experience: 2 years | College: Louisville
James Burgess was one of my darkhorse players to make the roster last season. He ended up playing in 14 games (9 starts), registering 75 tackles and 4 sacks. At first, he was utilized as an extra linebacker in nickel passing situations before taking over for Jamie Collins during his injuries.
Burgess exceeded expectations, even playing a little better than Collins had been at times. However, things won’t be handed to him this year with the addition of Mychal Kendricks and the drafting of Genard Avery. Cleveland only regularly played four linebackers in 2017, so Burgess needs to do everything he can to show he’ll make the most of his reps if the team can find him a niche role. I still believe the team likes his abilities in coverage, something he can key in on this preseason.
Final Roster Odds: 90%
6. Genard Avery - Rookie Middle Linebacker
Height: 6-0 | Weight: 250 lbs | Age: 23
Experience: Rookie | College: Memphis
Genard Avery was a 5th round pick by the Browns. Many people were high on him for his potential to be a factor at the middle linebacker position. Hue Jackson already said that they are going to start him off at the MIKE, where he will bring a pass-rushing presence.
No other linebacker came close to the amount of pressures that Memphis' Genard Avery was able to achieve in 2017 pic.twitter.com/q78eoodDoo— PFF College (@PFF_College) February 1, 2018
Pro Football Focus said that Avery “had the highest pass-rushing grade in the class (83.5) at his position, more than 6.5 points higher than the next closest.” If Cleveland does like I think they will and cuts back on having two linebackers each play 100% of the snaps, then Avery will be able to fill in for Joe Schobert in some downhill passing situations.
Final Roster Odds: 95%
7. B.J. Bello - Backup Outside Linebacker
Height: 6-3 | Weight: 229 lbs | Age: 23
Experience: 2 years | College: Illinois State
B.J. Bello was another young player who cracked the roster in 2017 for a depth role. He played in all 16 games, but was primarily on special teams and saw very few snaps defensively. He finished the year with 6 tackles.
Bello faces an uphill battle to make the roster, already buried at seventh on our preview list due to two new additions in the offseason. His best shot at making the 53-man roster will be if a player in front of him gets hurt, or if he really makes a strong impression on special teams. Last October, an article was published on Bello, highlighting his background. He, like many undrafted players, chose to sign with Cleveland because he felt it was his best chance at making a roster at the time.
Final Roster Odds: 25%
Which player will see the most action on defense this year with the Browns?
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