Christian Kirksey: Browns Have Dogs Up Front

Getty Cleveland linebacker Christian Kirksey

With all the talk about the Cleveland Browns offense, head coach Freddie Kitchens has made it a point to make sure his defense gets some recognition.

But when linebacker Christian Kirksey got behind the mic for media availability at minicamp on Wednesday before practice, he had no problem talking about the offense.

After all, if the offense rolls, it makes the job that much easier for Kirksey and the rest of the defense.

“I don’t mind. Whenever the offense is looking good, I’m happy,” the Iowa product told reporters with a laugh. “We see how great our offense is looking right now. We got guys stacked at each position on offense. That’s a good things to see from the defensive side of the ball.”

Kirksey also doesn’t mind playing with elevated expectations — something he hasn’t had since he joined the team as a third round pick in 2014.

“It feels good to be on the positive side of things,” Kirksey said. “But we have to block out what people want us to do and do what we got to do … Our goal is to win and our goal is to get better.”

With a group of young talent like Nick Chubb and Baker Mayfield, along with the signings or Odell Beckham Jr. and Kareem Hunt in the offseason, there’s a reason why there has been plenty of talk about what the Browns’ offense will be capable of.

Kirksey and the defense don’t mind taking an “under the radar” approach, but that will be hard because the unit added some big pieces, too.

The most notable among those arrivals were defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson and pass-rusher Olivier Vernon, who was acquired via trade with the New York Giants.

 

“Whenever a linebacker has some dogs in front of him it makes life a lot easier,” Kirksey said. “It allows linebackers to run through freely, especially when you have two Pro Bowl caliber players like that.”

The Browns are installing a new 4-3 defense under first-year defensive coordinator Steve Wilks.

“We are a 4-3 base. We are very multiple in what we are doing. I think you have to be in this day in age with all of the different things you are seeing,” Wilks said after being hired. “It can change week to week. I am aggressive by nature, but it is all about trying to put your guys into the best position to be successful.”

Wilks had some praise for his linebackers at OTAs last month, including Kirksey.

“You guys saw Joe (Schobert) last year and saw his ability to be able to perform out in space. I think he does that well. Joe is extremely smart. Smart players know how to put themselves in positions to be successful. (Christian) Kirksey – athletic, he is a smart, physical guy,” Wilks said. “I think these guys can run. You have to have that matchup with these talented tight ends that can get vertical down the field. I think we have that in these two linebackers but also able to spread out in space over to the slot receiver. I have no problem with these guys playing out in space.”

Last year, Kirksey was limited to just seven games, recording 43 total tackles and a pair of interceptions. He had 283 tackles in his previous two season combined.

Kirksey said, so far, his role has not changed too much, despite the change in scheme. And neither has the goal.

“We are all on a mission: to bring as many wins to Cleveland as we possibly can,” Kirksey said.

 

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