5 Cleveland Browns who are truly worthy but under-appreciated

Cleveland Browns, Jacoby Brissett. Mandatory Credit: Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports
Cleveland Browns, Jacoby Brissett. Mandatory Credit: Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports /
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Browns, Sione Takitaki /

3. Sione Takitaki

Throughout the offseason, it wasn’t clear that Sione Takitaki was going to remain a Cleveland Brown. Takitaki and Mack Wilson were both drafted in 2019, and it appeared that Wilson had probably edged ahead of Takitaki on the depth chart.

All offseason there was talk that Takitaki needed to be traded, on the grounds that Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah is a potential Pro-Bowl talent and Anthony Walker was a veteran leader of the defense, which frequently plays only two linebackers. Plus Wilson enjoyed a great following in Cleveland because of his hard-hitting style, not to mention his presence on social media which made him a pleasure to cover.

Perhaps Takitaki’s job was saved when the Browns ultimately traded Wilson in order to take a chance on defensive end Chase Winovich, whose hamstring issues seem to have lingered this season after limiting his performance in New England last season. In addition, Walker is on IR with a torn quad tendon, and Jacob Phillips also went on IR with a pectoral injury, creating an opportunity for Takitaki to play. Depending on how you figure, he might have been fourth string going into training camp.

The result against Cincinnati was 13 combined tackles including six solos, plus a strip sack of Joe Burrow that Myles Garrett would have been proud of.

Takitaki has never played as many as half of the team’s defensive snaps, yet he had 67 tackles in 2020. Thus if he were playing full-time he might have 130 or 140 tackles, which would place him among the NFL leaders.

At the moment, Takitaki is the highest-graded Browns linebacker according to Pro Football Focus, especially versus the run. Is it too crazy to think that the Browns need to find ways to keep Takitaki on the field even when some of the other guys are healthy?

Cleveland doesn’t have two good defensive tackles. Even with all the injuries, they have three good linebackers with Owusu-Koramoah getting healthy again, accompanied by Deion Jones, and Takitaki. Plus they still have Tony Fields II and Jordan Kunaszyk looks like a good situational early-down linebacker. Does Joe Woods have a 3-3-5 formation in his playbook?

Somehow, the Browns need to find a way to keep Takitaki on the field.