There weren’t many bright spots for the Cleveland Browns in 2011. But there still were some to be found. One of those bright spots was the defense.
The defense kept the Browns in many games this season, when the offense couldn’t do anything with the ball. Jabaal Sheard, Phil Taylor, and Chris Gocong all made major contributions. But the stand out player was D’Qwell Jackson. The linebacker from Maryland had a stand out year in 2011. He led the team, and was among the league leaders, in tackles. Jackson was also named “AFC Defensive Player of the Week” for the month of September and was named a Pro Bowl alternate.
What makes all of this amazing, is that Jackson did all of this after missing most of the last two seasons with pectoral injuries. He has really gone from being somewhat of an after thought, to a strong force on a growing defense. That’s why it makes a ton of sense to bring Jackson back. It almost goes without saying, considering his amazing production. Jackson is obviously a major piece of the defense. Without him, you lack a true defensive playmaker that would be difficult to replace.
With the defense much further along then the offense, the Browns can’t afford to lose their defensive pieces. That’s why the Browns would be smart to give Jackson the franchise tag if they need to. I know Jackson has said he wants to be back in Cleveland. I also know Heckert hopes to bring Jackson back. But other teams will be bidding for his services as well. The franchise tag could be the safety net the Browns need to secure Jackson for the long term.
The Browns defense is not complete by bringing D’Qwell back. But they could definitely secure one of the top performers for the long term. They do need to add another linebacker to start next to both Jackson and Gocong. But whoever that player is, it’s crucial that Jackson is a part of that linebacker core. This defense needs its leader. And it’s great that the Browns realize how important Jackson is. Not that it’s hard to see that. You only have to watch the game film to see how great a player he really is.