The biggest question heading into 2020 has to be at linebacker. Especially when the most experienced player in that core has been a backup for most of his career. Everything about this position should concern fans and media alike.
It should also concern the front office, but so far, it looks like this is the position they least value in the analytics game. Although we haven’t seen how the running back room will go in the future. The Browns have nine linebackers currently, and they better be ready to fight because it doesn’t get any more wide open at a position. So who’s ready to rumble?
Goodson was signed to help stop the run, giving him a little added help. He had been a liability in coverage for most of his career, so he is likely going to be used in early down situations and need to have someone replace him when it is an apparent passing down. Who that will be is anybody’s guess at this point. His experience is the only advantage he has among this group.
Wilson and Takitaki are atop the chart based on assets used, and in Wilson’s case, experience. Wilson was shoved into a starting role after Christian Kirksey went down with a torn pectoral muscle, and for most of the year, it was not pretty. Wilson did provide 82 tackles, four tackles for loss, seven passes defended and an interception. Having so much playing time as a rookie may also end up being key to making a jump this season.
That jump will be needed based on the fact Pro Football Focus had him graded at 41.8 overall, placing him 83rd out of 88 players ranked at linebacker.
Takitaki may be the most significant question mark out of these three based on the limited amount of snaps he received in 2019. It was especially curious the Browns went with Wilson as the starter over a player they took two rounds earlier. Even with the coaching situation last season, it is clear Takitaki needed time to develop after a college career that saw him deal with a lot of maturity issues. Will he take the next step in 2020?
Then comes the rest of the group and the Browns wildcard in third-round pick Jacob Phillips.
Phillips comes out of LSU having led the team in tackles and the leader of the college champs defense. He is a disciplined player who has enough athleticism to make plays all over the field against the run. Phillips did struggle throughout his college career in coverage. He has work to do on reaction and awareness, but the talent is there. If he can pick things up quickly, he has a chance to play a lot in 2020 if he does not end up starting.
The remaining options who will have a chance to impress are Tae Davis, Jermaine Grace, Willie Harvey, Montrel Meander, and undrafted free agent Solomon Ajayi. All will have to impress to have a chance at overtaking the list above, but it may be the best chance in the NFL.
The NFL season is finally here, and it is going to be a wild ride from training camp till the end.