CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – Through all the coaching changes and roster shakeups over the years there was one calming voice within the locker room – D’Qwell Jackson.
But not anymore.
That voice is gone after the Browns released Jackson on Feb. 26 and he signed a 4-year $22 million deal Thursday with the Indianapolis Colts.
Outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo and defensive lineman John Hughes were asked about the loss of Jackson during an appearance at the Cleveland Auto Show at the I-X Center Thursday night.
“It’s going to be a tough challenge,” Mingo said. “D’Qwell, he was our leader on the [defense], team leader. He was a guy we looked to but I feel we’re very capable in replacing his leadership.”
Jackson won’t just be missed because of his 6 100-tacke seasons but because no matter how bad it got publicly or privately for the team as the losses piled up season after season, he was the leader of not just the defense, but the entire team as a 3-time captain.
“Whenever you lose somebody like D’Qwell it’s definitely a blow to the team,” Hughes said. “I think we find our leadership through our positions, especially on d-line. I found my leadership through Ahtyba Rubin. He taught me a lot.”
If there was a player who could complain about playing for 4 head coaches and 5 different defensive coordinators in 8 seasons, it was Jackson. But he never did. With every change he encouraged his teammates to get on board with the program of each staff, regardless if he liked, agreed or disagreed with it.
Jackson was the glue that tried to hold the team together through turmoil and he encouraged his teammates to make themselves better.
Mingo said Thursday night that he doesn’t need to anyone to tell him he needs to be better because he realizes that he’s not a complete player yet.
“There’s numerous, numerous things I can say [I need to improve],” Mingo said. “Better with my feet, better with angles, better with hands, better with awareness, better with ball catching. Better with everything. There’s always something [to improve].”
Now that Jackson is gone, one of the players that Mingo hoped would be able to fill the team leadership void is safety T.J. Ward.
One minor problem – Ward is set to become an unrestricted free agent on Tuesday.
“He was the second voice you heard after D’Qwell,” Mingo said. “He was a guy that helped the younger guys. He helped me personally on plays in the game and I feel he can fill that leadership role.”
If Ward walks they’ll have to look elsewhere for leadership, or provide it themselves.
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