The Cleveland Browns lost one of their captains and one of their best players last week in a loss to the Detroit Lions.
Linebacker Jamie Collins, Sr. injured his MCL on a run back off of an interception. This knee injury will sideline Collins for the remainder for the 2017 campaign.
His injury is a big blow to the Cleveland defense, who has seen improvement under first year defensive coordination Gregg Williams. Collins started all six games he played in this year, as he missed three games with a concussion. In those six games, he recorded 31 tackles, one sack, one interception, and one forced fumble.
With Collins now done for the season, the Browns are going to have to look elsewhere for production on that side of the ball.
Fourth year linebacker Christian Kirksey will look to become the leader of the defense now for the remainder of the season. He has been solid thus far recording 74 tackles over all nine games. Against the Tennessee Titans, Kirksey had 17 total tackles.
He knows that the loss of Collins will be tough on the team. “You’re losing your captain, one of your playmakers on defense,” Kirksey said.
However, even with Collins going down, Kirksey feels confident about his replacement. “I believe the first time Jamie was out, Burgess stepped right in. He was getting TFLs, PBUs, sacks, stuff like that. I have complete faith in James, he knows that he has a big responsibility now that Jamie is out and I think he can take that on,” Kirksey said.
Burgess has recorded at least one tackle in each game he has played this season. In back to back weeks against the Cincinnati Bengals and the New York Jets he registered seven total tackles.
Because of Collins’ injury, this opens up the door for some of the younger players to help contribute the rest of the season.
First round picks from the 2017 draft Myles Garrett and Jabrill Peppers have played well throughout the first half of their first season in the NFL, but Cleveland will need more help from them to finish the season.
In addition to Peppers and Garrett, second year defensive linemen Emmanuel Ogbah and Danny Shelton will need to step up and now help stop the run. The defense as a whole is much improved from last year, and the loss of Jamie Collins will hurt that production.
To see what the Browns defense could do with Garrett, Collins, Peppers, and Kirksey on the field at the same time was impressive and should give Cleveland fans optimism for the seasons to come.
For the rest of this season, the defense should take a bit of a dip with Jamie Collins out. But, it gives the first and second year players to step in and play meaningful minutes, which bodes well for the future.