Enter free agent linebacker Damien Wilson, who comes in at 6-foot-1 and 245 pounds. Wilson has 73 starts to his name over his eight-year career and won a Super Bowl with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2020. Wilson has also seen time with the Dallas Cowboys, Jacksonville Jaguars and, most recently, the Carolina Panthers.
Wilson was pitched as an “add now” option for the Browns by Bleacher Report following Week 1.
“The Browns struggled to stop the run at times last season because they didn’t have great play on the interior up front,” Bleacher Report wrote. “They also were trying to plug run gaps with light linebackers in Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (221 pounds) and Tony Fields (222 pounds). Sione Takitaki was the only ‘backer with real size at 6’1”, 238 pounds.
“Damien Wilson is a free agent who could come in and play an important role on run downs. At 6’1″, 245 pounds, he provides a little more bulk and thump as a run-stuffing linebacker.”
Browns Defense Shines in Opener as Takitaki, Walker Return
The Browns’ defense was lights out in the opener against the Bengals, stymying Cincinnati’s high-powered unit with a little help from some bad weather.
At linebacker, Sione Takitaki (23 snaps), Anthony Walker Jr. (33 snaps) and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (43 snaps) got nearly all the work. None of the three stood out, with Takitaki earning the highest grade on Pro Football Focus of 64.8.
But the Browns had some big performances elsewhere on the defense, specifically from safety Grant Delpit and on the defensive line from star pass-rusher Myles Garrett and Za’Darius Smith. All graded out as “elite” on Pro Football Focus.
“It was a hell of a dress rehearsal with these guys. They have a very explosive offense, and they have very skilled players in each position,” Garrett said after the game. “So, this was a big one for us to see where we’re at and we really showed what we can do and we set the bar high, and this is the standard we got to continue to improve from here.”
Browns Gearing Up For Another AFC North Rival
The Browns have a difficult schedule to open the season, seeing all three of their AFC North rivals in the first four weeks. The Bengals — who were the two-time defending division champs — were arguably the biggest challenge but next up is a Pittsburgh Steelers team that will be hungry to erase the stink of a very disappointing 30-7 Week 1 loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
The Browns are a 2.5-point road favorite but won’t be taking Pittsburgh lightly. The Steelers have won three of the last five meetings, including a 28-14 win at the end of last season.
“We got these six division games. We have three of them early in the first four weeks. We knew that, talked about that going into the week or going into the season, I should say. So, we’re well aware of what that means,” Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said on September 11. “Once you walk out of the building, we’ll turn our sights to the next opponent. And as you know, Monday Night Football, we have an extra day to prepare, so we’ll use those days to our advantage and getting our bodies right and certainly spending some time on the Steelers.”
The AFC North is expected to be one of the most competitive divisions in football, so starting the season 2-0 with wins against their rivals would be a huge step in the right direction for the Browns.