BEREA (92.3 The Fan) – In NFL circles they say players that make a lot of tackles don’t make a lot of plays.
Browns inside linebacker Christian Kirksey is the exception to the rule.
Despite playing on one of the worst defenses in the league statistically – and the Browns’ 0-10 record also speaks for itself – Kirksey is having a breakout year in his third season in Cleveland.
“It feels good,” Kirksey said. “Obviously, I am all about winning. That is my main focus, but to see something like that is definitely cool to see. We still have six games to go so I am going to try my best on the field, try to do what I can do and just keep moving.”
The team’s 2014 third-round pick leads the NFL with 94 tackles according to league statistics but he’s also made 6 tackles for loss, registered 5 quarterback hits while adding 1.5 sacks and a pair of pass breakups.
“He has had a tremendous season,” head coach Hue Jackson said. “He has 6 more games to go to earn the right to say that he has had a really good year. Thus far, he has done great. He has accepted the challenge of playing extremely physical and tough. He has done that. He is a 3-down linebacker. He can play on first, second and third down. He runs, and he has made some explosive plays. He needs to continue to do so, and I think he will.”
His 54 solo tackles are tops on the Browns.
“You want to stack up a bunch of tackles, but my biggest thing for me is to make impact plays,” Kirksey said. “That is my biggest focus. That is my main focus for this defense is to make impact plays to where you change the game and change the momentum of the game. That is my main focus.”
Kirksey has quietly emerged as one of the leaders on the team and he’s the one who volunteered the declaration 2 weeks ago following a 35-10 loss to the Dallas Cowboys that the Browns would not become the third NFL team in the Super Bowl era to finish a season without a victory.
“We’re not going to go 0-16, that’s for a fact,” Kirksey said on Nov. 6. “We’re not doing that. Things are going to get on a roll and we just gotta keep fighting…That’s motivation. I don’t know if I’m supposed to say it but we’re not going to go winless. We’re not.”
Kirksey has only missed 2 defensive snaps and his 710 snaps are a league-high in addition to his special teams work that tacks on another 113 plays to his workload.
On a defense that ranks 31st in total defense, run defense and points allowed, 27th in pass defense and 26th in turnover ratio, Kirksey has been one of very few bright spots this season.
“I am just doing the same thing that I have been doing just trying to be wherever I can be to help the team, trying to be in the right position, trying to be at the right spot and when my name is called just make the play,” Kirksey said.
Getting Closer – Quarterback Robert Griffin III will begin practicing next week according to Jackson.
Griffin still has to undergo testing to determine if the non-contact restriction can be lifted and that is also expected to happen next week.
“He has definitely been cleared for practice without contact,” Jackson said. “There is another procedure that he needs to go through medically to see for sure if he is totally OK, if the bone is healed totally properly, but he will have the opportunity to start practicing next week and go out there with his teammates and perform and do what he can do.
“There still will be one more medical hurdle for him to clear to be totally cleared to play.”
Griffin has been out since breaking a bone in his left shoulder in the final minutes of their Sept. 11 loss at Philadelphia.
Quote of the Week – Special teams coordinator Chris Tabor on 50 mph gusts in the forecast Sunday: “If you’re worried about your hair, you might not want to go to this game.”
Injury Report – Questionable: CB Tramon Williams (knee); Expected to Play: LT Joe Thomas (knee), CB Joe Haden (groin), CB Jamar Taylor (groin); FULL: WR Andrew Hawkins (finger), NT Danny Shelton (wrist), TE Randall Telfer (thumb)