At 1-5, and another double digit-loss season imminent, the loss of linebacker D’Qwell Jackson is not as devastating to Cleveland Browns as it would have been if the team was 5-1.
There’s no question Jackson is one of the best defenders on the Browns. At 6'0'', 240 pounds, he is undersized for a 3-4 inside linebacker, but is always seen around the football and is the leader of the unit.
Before he got injured against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Jackson was well on his way to another 100-tackle campaign. The fourth-year veteran out of the University of Maryland had 59 tackles and a forced fumble.
With the season quickly slipping away, this is a golden opportunity for rookies David Veikune and Kaluka Maiava to show what they can do.
This season, Veikune has yet to record a tackle, either on special teams or on defense. Maiava has produced 10 tackles and has also forced two fumbles.
Two of Maiava’s former USC teammates are starting with their respective teams. Brian Cushing (Texans) has 48 tackles and two forced fumbles. Rey Maualuga (Bengals), whom the Browns passed on three times in the draft, has 28 tackles, two forced fumbles, and a sack.
The only one not starting is Clay Matthews III, but he has been rotating in with the outside linebackers. Matthews has made an immediate impact, racking up 12 tackles, a forced fumble, and three sacks.
You know Maiava doesn’t want to be the only linebacker from that group not getting significant playing time and producing. If Veikune does not adapt to the defense quickly enough, Eric Mangini may turn to Maiava.
Either way, both players will be showcasing their skills for a possible starting position next season. Veterans David Bowens and Eric Barton are older than 30 and are just stop-gap players for right now. There is no question Barton and Bowens will be able to help out the rookies.
Mangini compared Veikune to a young Tedy Bruschi and believes he can play either outside or inside.
Jackson’s loss will definitely be noticed. His contract is up after the season and Mangini will probably want to hold onto him, based on his high praises for Jackson as a player.
The season is going nowhere and the Browns need to find out if their draft picks can play. With Alex Mack, Mohamed Massaquoi, and Brian Robiskie already getting significant playing time, Mangini is going to find out very soon.