Confident Karlos Dansby looks to serve as catalyst for Cleveland Browns defense

Linebacker: “I’m the best. I’m the best. I’m the best. I’m the best right now, by far."
TNS Regional News
Aug 6, 2014

 

About the only thing the Browns’ new inside linebacker didn’t say was “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.”

However, Karlos Dansby has a message for teams this season: He’s the greatest, or a version of it.

“I’m the best. I’m the best. I’m the best. I’m the best right now, by far,” Dansby said after practice when asked if he was an elite linebacker. “Until I leave the game, I’m the best. That’s how I look at it, that’s how I approach it, and my numbers say the same.”

The numbers do impress. Dansby produced 122 tackles in 2013 (114 solo, eight assisted) for the Arizona Cardinals to rank 20th in the league in that category, which primarily features linebackers. Dig a little deeper, however, and other statistics bolster his case.

His 23 passes defensed last season led all NFL linebackers and many defensive backs, which shows Dansby works as well in pass defense as in run defense. There’s also the matter of 6.5 sacks he accumulated last year.

But having just started playing inside linebacker two years ago, he admits having an attitude.

“I’ve got a chip on my shoulder, man, because I have been underrated for a long time,” he said. “I haven’t had that recognition that I think I deserved. I’ve got to prove myself year in and year out. It ain’t about what I did last year; it’s about what I’m going to do this year.”

He may have converted fellow linebacker Jabaal Sheard into a believer.

“Looking at what he’s doing out there for us, yeah, he’s pretty good. Hopefully, he can do that this year and hopefully our defense is the reason he gets there,” Sheard said. “Sometimes the Pro Bowl is about the team you’re on. You have that light on and people recognize you. I think he’s a heckuva player. Then again, we’re only going against our offense. We’ll wait to see what happens.”

For Dansby, that would be making the Pro Bowl or the list of the 100 best players in the league produced annually by the NFL Network.

“It’s a joke, I think it’s a joke,” he said. “I just have to go out and earn my respect now. I’m going to go out and do it again this year.”

Although it seems daunting that he could duplicate his 2013 production, Dansby feels he’s just getting this middle linebacker thing down.

“Oh, without a doubt. I’m just getting started, man,” he said. “A couple years earlier when they moved me to [inside], I was never an [inside] linebacker, I was always [strong-side] linebacker, I came into the league as a (strong-side) linebacker. That’s why I have 41 sacks right now. I grew and evolved with the game . . . if I [didn’t] I’d be out of the league.”

But he isn’t, and the Browns brought Dansby to Cleveland for the same reason as safety Donte Whitner — to toughen a defense that fizzled out at the end of several games last year. Dansby said he knows how to make his teammates play better.

“It’s a mindset,” he said. “The next thing is your attitude has to be contagious. We can talk about it all day, but you got to be able to execute and guys have to see it on a daily basis. I’m trying to be the catalyst.”

Finding the depth

Browns coach Mike Pettine and his staff released their first team depth chart Tuesday.

“I did it because I had to do it,” he said. “At a lot of positions, we would [have] just slashed guys. It’s very loose in our minds. I wouldn’t put a lot of credence in that. It will be very fluid and there will likely be changes after every week.”

Still there were notables. For now, Brian Hoyer remains the No. 1 quarterback with Johnny Manziel as the backup. Wide receiver Josh Gordon remains with the first team. On the offensive line, John Greco is penciled in with the first unit at right guard with Garrett Gilkey behind him. Rookie Joel Bitonio is listed as the starting left guard.

Defensively, Billy Winn holds the job at right end and Desmond Bryant is the starting left end with Phil Taylor listed at No. 2 at that spot. Barkevious Mingo and Paul Kruger hold the outside linebacking spots, with Sheard with the twos.

Breathless

What could it be like for opposing defenses should rookie quarterback Manziel earn significant playing time this season?

“You get tired fast,” said the 6-foot-3, 264-pound Sheard. “You have to have a great rotation. You have to have a great group of guys. I can remember in the scrimmage having him out there on the edge a couple times. After about six plays, I was done. I was done chasing him. I had nothing left in the tank. That’s the way he thrives. He’s an outside-the-pocket guy. He’s going to run around and create plays.”

Toughing it out

Pettine talks about ensuring that his players are tough. Since the acclimation period, they’ve not been out of pads. It looks as if they’ll continue to be in them for a while.

“We’ve talked about it, being in pads up through the second game, and then we would evaluate it from there, kind of where we [are] health-wise, kind of where we were — do we need a day off from pads?” he said. “That’s all stuff that we’ll make that decision as we go, but up until game two, if we’re allowed to be in pads, we’ll be in them.”

Waiting game

After attending a hearing in New York regarding a possible suspension for violating the NFL substance abuse policy, Gordon continues to wait ... and wait ... and wait. He has not talked to the media about the hearing. Pettine said the team has no idea when a decision could come from Commissioner Roger Goodell’s office. Reports have said one to three weeks.

“It’s been reported, I think, it’ll be a chunk of time,” Pettine said. “We just don’t know when. We don’t have an exact date. As frustrating as it is for Josh, I think he’s handled it well. He’s been practicing hard, giving good effort, finishing plays. Assuming if we don’t hear anything, then he’ll be out there Saturday.”

Roster moves

The Browns waived defensive back Darwin Cook and signed tight ends Kyle Auffray and Martell Webb, linebacker Keith Pough and undrafted rookie wide receiver Tim Smith, the team announced Tuesday.

None of the four newcomers has played in an NFL regular-season game.

The Browns’ roster is at the 90-player limit.

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By George M. Thomas - Akron Beacon Journal (MCT)

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