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STAY or GO? LB Mack Wilson

DBN writers take a broad look at numerous positions on the Browns

NFL: NOV 29 Browns at Jaguars

After the last two seasons, the leading tackler for the Browns wasn’t resigned and allowed to test the free agent market. How odd is that?

In 2019, LB Joe Schobert had 133 total tackles and then signed a huge deal with Jacksonville. Last season, LB B.J. Goodson netted 91 total tackles and wasn’t even given a sniff at a second contract with Cleveland.

In free agency this year, GM Andrew Berry signed three linebackers: Anthony Walker from the Indianapolis Colts, plus Elijah Lee and Malcolm Smith - both of which played for the Browns last year. All three were inked to one-year deals.

In last year’s NFL draft, Berry nabbed Jacob Phillips in the third-round. DC Joe Woods predominately plays the 4-2-5 and also the 4-3. In this situation, prior to the draft the starting lineup would be as follows according to

Middle (MIKE)

Projected starter: Anthony Walker

Backup: Mack Wilson

Strongside (SAM)

Projected starter: Sione Takitaki

Backup: Malcolm Smith/Curtis Weaver

Weakside (WILL)

Projected starter: Jacob Phillips

Backup: Elijah Lee/George Obinna

The key phrase to this depth chart is “prior to the draft the starting lineup would be as follows....”

The draft absolutely changed everything. Berry selected LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah in the second-round out of Notre Dame and will compete for the WILL slot. Next, the crafty GM took West Virginia’s Tony Fields II in Round 5 who just happens to play the MIKE.

NFL: AFC Divisional Round-Cleveland Browns at Kansas City Chiefs Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

The linebacker room is now bulging with players. Something has got to give, and somebody has got to go. Typically, an NFL club will keep only seven linebackers.

And if Woods continues to invest his time into the 4-2-5, that number may be reduced to six at this position.

One of the questions from the DBN writers plus one Browns Backers chapter bigwig in this year’s training camp is this: what will happen to Mack Wilson with all of these new bodies? He was taken in the fifth-round of the 2019 NFL draft and just hasn’t found his spot yet. After making 82 total tackles in his rookie season, he had just 39 last year. His snap counts have gone way down along with his starts. So.....

LB Mack Wilson: Stay or Go?

Thomas Moore

The Browns signed Malcolm Smith and Anthony Walker in free agency then drafted Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah in Round 2 plus Tony Fields in Round 5 plus drafted Jacob Phillips in the third-round of the 2020 NFL draft.

Even before the NFL Draft it appeared that Mack Wilson was losing his grip on a roster spot for 2021.

Wilson always gives his all, which is nice to see, but the truth is that all that hard work has yet to pay off in results. In 2020, he finished with a PFF grade of 41.9, which was the third-worst grade among the Browns’ defense. If he did one thing well it might be different, but Wilson performed equally poor against the run (42.6 PFF grade) as he did against the pass (43.2 PFF grade).

Cleveland brought back veteran Malcolm Smith and signed Anthony Walker in free agency, so you have to believe they will be on the opening day roster. The club liked Jacob Phillips well enough a year ago and he should at least be healthy this season after dealing with a knee injury that left him as a game day inactive in six of the Browns first nine games last season. Sione Takitaki is also serviceable.

That is before adding in Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, the team’s second-round selection in last weekend’s draft. Owusu-Koramoah is in line to be on the field a lot, and with the Browns likely playing just two linebackers (if that) on almost every series, playing time and roster spots are quickly dwindling.

Wilson’s best bet to earn a roster spot looks to be on special teams, but even there he will face competition from Tony Fields II, one of the club’s fifth-round selections this year, and things are starting to look very dicey.

Expect Wilson to come to training camp with the Browns, but also expect that his time in Cleveland will come to an end when general manager Andrew Berry sets the final roster in September.

Stay or Go? GO

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Denver Broncos Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Barry Shuck

Wilson was very active on special teams last year, but his playing time with the regular defense diminished quite a bit. When the Browns re-signed Elijah Lee this off-season, they got him back because he is a special teams demon. Cleveland does not need two linebackers for ST designation.

With only seven roster spots allocated for linebackers, taking two in the draft does not bode well for some of the veterans – with an emphasis on Wilson’s regression. He is not a dependable tackler as his missed tackle percentage was 20.4% last year. Last season this placed him tied with Andrew Sendejo for second place on the Browns with the most missed tackles.

Although Wilson was utilized on 12 blitzes, he had zero sacks, one hurry and one QB pressure. He is in his second year yet only started eight games in 2020. And his coverage skills are sub-par. His receivers, mainly tight ends, had 28 targets of which 16 were completed for a 57.1% completion ratio.

Think about this: if MLB Goodson wasn’t re-signed on purpose and Walker was signed, also a MLB, then what does that say about Wilson’s production – or lack of?

Stay or Go? GO

Cleveland Browns v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Matt Wood

Mack Wilson has been a pretty popular “vet who is going to be cut” as of late but I’m not so sure. Wilson struggled at times as a rookie and the following years. He could be upgraded by one of the new faces that were drafted but I think we are a year away from that.

I think Wilson still has a role this year with the Browns but next year is where the trouble could be popping up for him as the youngsters have a year under their belt. Wilson was rushed into playing as a rookie because of injuries and I don’t think the Browns are in a rush to have the young guys see the field right away.

Stay or Go? STAY

NFL: NOV 29 Browns at Jaguars

Andy Lightner

Vice President: Navarre Beach Browns Backers

Navarre, Florida

Mack Wilson had an impressive rookie season but the competition on the linebacker team was not that impressive. He was probably the least impressive linebacker in 2020 where he was coming in with high expectations after a strong rookie campaign. He did battle some injuries in 2020 and missed the first two weeks of the season, but Mack finished with just 39 tackles in 13 games. He is a John Dorsey guy in a linebacker room filled with guys brought in by Andrew Berry (Elijah Lee, Malcom Smith, and Anthony Walker) who in all reality are better than Mack Wilson. Then add in the draft where the Browns took Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (JOK) in the second-round and Tony Fields II in the fifth-round. I am not sure where Tony Fields will fit into the linebacking core but he is a tackling machine and a great special teams player which is an area on field where Wilson is not very productive.

When the Browns traded up in the second-round and drafted JOK I think that put the writing on the wall plus an instant and clear upgrade over Wilson. Berry has brought some guys in to definitely spice-up the competition at a position that was a glaring need to be fixed. Now as the old saying goes “iron sharpens iron” and maybe - just MAYBE this will fuel Wilson to push himself and improve in areas needed to improve to earn a starting job. But I just don’t think he can. I do think that Wilson probably makes the 53-man roster this season, however his role will be diminished and 2021 will most likely be his last season as a Cleveland Brown.

Stay or Go? STAY


What say you? Stay or Go? Will Mack Wilson be on the 2021 opening day roster?

This poll is closed

  • 16%
    (147 votes)
  • 46%
    That would be a no
    (418 votes)
  • 36%
    Waived, then added to practice squad
    (330 votes)
895 votes total Vote Now