Three different linebackers who could fix the Cleveland Browns defense
The Cleveland Browns saw a great deal of success in 2020. Baker Mayfield blossomed in year one under the Kevin Stefanski offense. Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt were two sides of the best running back tandem in the NFL. And the offensive line was arguably the biggest “worst to first” story in 2020.
The other side of the ball, however, was a different story. The defense had its bright spots, but there is no denying that it was the weakness of the team. The front four is led by super-human Myles Garrett who eats opposing offensive tackles for lunch. The secondary also has some promising young players in Denzel Ward and Ronnie Harrison. The linebackers are clearly the weakest part of the defense.
B.J. Goodson was the leader for the Browns linebacker room in 2020 and he did well in his role. Goodson was able to record 91 tackles which led the team. He is currently up for a new contract this summer and the Browns should bring him back to be the same tackling machine that he was this past season.
Sione Takitaki and Mack Wilson are also good specialists that should be a part of the linebacking unit for 2021 as well. Takitaki is good at flying around the field and can stop the run decently well. Wilson had a down year after his good rookie season, but he still provides value in his ability to rush the quarterback in blitz scenarios.
That being said, the Browns linebacking unit is far from complete for a team that wants to compete far into the playoffs next season. They need a linebacker who excels in coverage. Opposing quarterbacks were often able to isolate the Browns linebackers in the passing game and exploit their lack of coverage skills.
Here are three avenues that the Browns could use to bring in new talent to their linebacking core that would instantly turn the linebackers from a weakness to a strength.
Draft LB Zaven Collins
Zaven Collins fits the Browns’ need at linebacker like a glove. Coming out of Tulsa, Collins has a combination of size, speed, and mobility that is rare for someone of his size. Pro Football Focus is one of many draft analysis organizations that thinks very highly of Collins.
Even though Collins is highly regarded by many he continues to hover around low-20s and high-30s on most big boards. This is a prime position for the Browns to be able to draft him with their first-round selection (26th overall).
Grant Puskar went into more depth on Collins and why the Browns should select him in his article. If the Tulsa linebacker is available when the Browns are on the clock, they would be hard-pressed to find someone that would benefit the team more than Collins would.
Collins fits very well into what the Browns need on defense and they should heavily consider taking him in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft.