In some aspects of the game, the linebackers were very strong on Sunday afternoon. But at the same time, they clearly have a long way to go both physically and mentally before they can be considered an elite group.
First, the positives. The linebackers helped out very successfully in the effort to make Tennessee’s offense one-dimensional. They stopped the run when called upon, and forced the Titans into third-and-long situations. While Tennessee was persistent in their running game, Cleveland’s front seven was persistent in making sure it wasn’t a significant factor in the game.
Of course, there is more to the game than this though. The most glaring error the linebackers made in this game was their inability to contain Mariota in the pocket. On the very first offensive play, for example, the dual threat quarterback scrambled for 41 yards. In total, the former Oregon Duck rushed for 64 yards, a yard short of equaling the total of Tennessee’s leading rusher. The concept of keeping a balanced defense which doesn’t allow the quarterback to get far when scrambling outside of the pocket is a simple one, but it is one that the Browns don’t seem to understand.
Once again, Christian Kirksey and Demario Davis led the way for this unit. They even played fairly well in coverage. But their few mistakes puts a damper on an otherwise solid performance, and they end up with an average grade.