B.J. Goodson wants to be the Cleveland Browns starting middle linebacker but after three teams in three years, that doesn’t seem to be his calling.
B.J. Goodson comes across as a good guy. A team-first, put everyone over, and praise the team efforts type of player. That’s a valuable commodity and one that this team has been lacking. He also has a desire to replace former Pro Bowler Joe Schobert in the middle of the Cleveland Browns defense. Desire is a powerful thing, but it rarely makes up for one’s own shortcomings.
“[My mindset is] to get these guys better, including myself, for us to be the best linebacker corps across the league,’’ Goodson said to Mary Kay Cabot, “That’s my job, and that’s why they brought me here. I’m looking forward to that. I’m up for the challenge.”
Goodson may want to replace Schobert, but the odds of him being able to do just that aren’t in his favor. To the point that the Browns should still be actively recruiting Clay Matthews III to play for the team. That way Mack Wilson can move inside and assume middle linebacking duties from here on out. Wilson played a lot near the middle of the field last year, as most of Freddie Kitchens’s sets had three corners, and two linebackers, thus putting Wilson in more of a 3-4 type position. Which makes such a positional change easy to navigate.
Goodson is coming in as a great teammate. He’s saying and doing all the right things. Desire’s a powerful thing, but so is the past. All one needs to do is look at the defensively starved Green Bay Packers and New York Giants as a sign that Goodson may not be the one who can step in and replace a Pro Bowl-caliber player. In 13 games as a starter for the 2018 Giants, he only amassed 61 combined tackles. The team also gave up over 2,000 yards rushing that year. The Packers gave up 1900 yards in 2019 when Goodson was a linebacker for them.
Neither team was near the top of the league in any credible defensive metric.
That’s not all on Goodson, not at all. It takes 11 to succeed or fail. What it is a sign of though is that he’s been deemed expendable by bad defensive teams. Teams desperate for anyone and anything to help make them not terrible. The Browns in 2019 were even worse defensively against the rush. Especially with the fact that Kitchens played as many as five or six defensive backs at a time against the run.
So clearly the issues went beyond Miles Garrett’s suspension or Joe Schobert as many fans keep repeating. You can’t expect a defense to be successful when you have 170-pound corners trying to meet the line of scrimmage. So maybe someone like Goodson could help. Maybe he can’t. Gotta wait to find out.
“[My mindset is] to get these guys better, including myself, for us to be the best linebacker corps across the league,’’ he said. “That’s my job, and that’s why they brought me here. I’m looking forward to that. I’m up for the challenge.”
Whether Goodson emerges as the answer in the middle is anyone’s guess but his desire to see everyone in his unit, and on defensive get better is a strong indication that he was a good character hire. One of the most unsung Patriots of all time was Larry Izzo. He played eight years as a special teams player and earned two Pro Bowls as a special teams specialist for New England. All while helping them win three Super Bowls.
If that’s the role Goodson ends up getting in Cleveland, then maybe he can have a major impact. Even if it’s not as the anchor in the middle of a rejuvenated defense.