The first official day of padded practices in training camp earlier this month coincided in a wave of injuries, some serious and season-ending. The rash of injuries has seemingly dwindled back down to perhaps something that we would normally expect at this time of year, but teams still have to deal with the fallout of those ailments.
For the Cleveland Browns, they have a number of issues that they are dealing with, including their new nickel corner recovering from a lacerated liver, not something you often see on the football field. The injury believed to be most serious was to second-year starting inside linebacker Mack Wilson, who suffered a hyperextended knee and was feared that he might miss most of the season.
After seeking a second opinion, there appears to be a bit more optimism. For one thing, it reaffirmed the belief that he would not require season-ending surgery. More specifically, preliminarily, he is now potentially looking at missing four to six weeks, rather than potentially months. “See y’all soon”, he said.
That would be a big relief for a Browns defense that is suddenly thin at inside linebacker, having allowed Pro Bowler Joe Schobert to leave in free agency, and releasing long-time starter Christian Kirksey. Another second-year player, Sione Takitaki, was one option to start for Wilson, along with free agent signing B.J. Goodson, a journeyman. Recently added since the injury was another veteran, Malcolm Smith, best known for being named Super Bowl MVP with the Seattle Seahawks.
Though he was overhyped coming into the 2019 NFL Draft and ultimately slid into the fifth round—he started out being projected in the first), he would start 14 games as a rookie, posting 82 tackles, with four for loss, plus an interception, a forced fumble, and a sack over 944 defensive snaps.
For the umpteenth time, the Browns rehauled their organization this offseason, with a new general manager, new head coach, and most of the staff under him as well. Much of the focus of late has been on the offense, which isn’t necessarily a surprise, given who is involved in that side of the ball.
But they ranked 20th in points allowed on defense and 30th against the run, both in terms of yards allowed and yards per play. They did fare better in coverage, finishing in the top 10 in yards allowed, though they also faced among the fewest passes, and ranked 17th in touchdowns allowed.
Schobert was one of their best players on the defensive side of the ball last season, and both Goodson and Smith are replacement-level journeymen at best, so they really need Wilson to step up and show that he can lead in the middle of that defense. Obviously, the sooner he can get back on the field, the better.