AFC North Positional Rankings: Linebacker

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Oct 26, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns inside linebacker Karlos Dansby (56) at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

3. Cleveland Browns

LOLB: Scott Solomon

LILB: Karlos Dansby

RILB: Christian Kirksey

ROLB: Paul Kruger

Other notable linebackers: Barkevious Mingo, Nate Orchard, Craig Robertson

Cleveland’s linebacking corps is an intriguing bunch, led by Karlos Dansby and former Raven, Paul Kruger. And perhaps Cincinnati’s linebacking corps could be ranked higher than Cleveland’s, but Vontaze Burfict’s injury issues keep Cleveland at number three in the division for the time being. With all due respect, Cleveland’s linebacking corps is not the most electric linebacking corps in football; however, Karlos Dansby is a quality football player who is an exciting player to watch.

Aug 20, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns inside linebacker Karlos Dansby (56) during the game against the Buffalo Bills at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Scott Solomon looks like a journeyman type of player at best; he’s already suited up for four different teams in his first three seasons. And despite his limited experience as a starter (22 career starts), he’s playing alongside a couple of linebackers who have proven to be great mentors in Dansby and Kruger. And if Solomon ends up disappointing the Browns’ coaches, former first-round pick Barkevious Mingo could still earn a second chance to make an impact for Cleveland.

Karlos Dansby is the best player of the bunch; his presence elevates the Cleveland defense’s performance. Cleveland allowed 25.4 points per game in 2013, which diminished to 21.1 points per game in 2014, a significant improvement. And despite the fact that Dansby is 33 years old, he is still a capable player. Just take a look at his 2013 stats with the Arizona Cardinals for further evidence–he recorded 122 tackles (an impressive 114 of those being solo tackles), six-and-a-half sacks, 19 pass defenses, four interceptions, a forced fumble and two defensive touchdowns.

It’s highly unlikely that Dansby ever comes close to repeating this success; his 2013 season was remarkable. But it’s not far off to say that just two years removed, he can have a big impact if he can stay on the field. Even if Dansby ends up unable to repeat his 2013 accomplishments, he’s the defensive leader for this Browns team.

Christian Kirksey had a nice rookie season in 2014, recording 81 tackles, two sacks, two pass defenses and a forced fumble in just eight starts. His production could skyrocket in his sophomore season, and with Dansby’s mentorship, Kirksey could become just as instinctive a player as Dansby in the near future–that would be scary for fans of the Browns’ AFC North rivals.

Finally, Paul Kruger came over from Baltimore after a nice 2012 season and provided a serviceable impact on the defensive side of the ball in Cleveland in his first two seasons. Kruger’s production in 2013 was subpar, but he had a good season in 2014, compiling 53 tackles, four pass defenses and 11 sacks. To add to Kruger’s on the field impact, he’s a solid locker room guy and could be a mentor for the Browns’ 2015 second-round pick, Nate Orchard.

Despite the fact that Cleveland’s linebacking group isn’t among the NFL’s best, it is still better than Cincinnati’s; the position group could have a bright future if its young players like Christian Kirksey, Nate Orchard, Craig Robertson and Barkevious Mingo end up becoming productive players.