BEREA — Rookie linebacker Mack Wilson has filled in admirably since veteran captain Christian Kirksey went on injured reserve with a chest injury. In two starts, Wilson has 12 tackles and a pass defensed while playing every snap.
He’s devoting his performance to Kirksey, his mentor and friend.
“I feel like his playing style of football is aggressive, playing fast, being that vocal leader on the field, and just to be able to fill in his position, that’s an honor,” Wilson said Tuesday. “I kind of take that in every day and I always just tell him, ‘Even though you’re not on the field physically, you’re playing through me.’ So that’s how I go about it.”
— Mack Wilson (@5mackwilson1) September 23, 2019
Wilson was a fifth-round pick after leaving Alabama early. He flashed in training camp and the preseason with a flurry of interceptions, faded for a bit and re-emerged when Kirksey went down.
He’s a gifted athlete who excels in space, and turns to Kirksey whenever he has a question.
“Because he’s obviously still watching film and seeing who we play the next week,” Wilson said. “Anything football-related, outside of football, I’ll reach out to Kirko, because I feel like he’s probably the guy who I’ve got the best relationship with on the team. So I feel like he can help me in any way I need to be helped.”
Wilson said he texts the veterans on defense after games.
“Just like, I appreciate you guys believing in me,” he said. “There’s not really too many rookie linebackers starting around the league unless they were drafted first or second round. I take full pride in just holding myself accountable when I’m on the field.”
Wilson caught a break Sunday in the fourth quarter of the 40-25 win over the Ravens. On fourth-and-3 from the Baltimore 31-yard line with 8:19 left and the Browns leading 30-18, Wilson had tight end Mark Andrews in man coverage.
“That’s probably Lamar’s favorite target, I know they’re about to throw to him,” Wilson said, referring to quarterback Lamar Jackson.
He saw Andrews break toward the sideline and made an assumption.
“It’s fourth down, so I’m like he’s got to be running the out route,” Wilson said. “That’s why I was so aggressive, and when he turned up, I was like, ‘F—.’”
Andrews faked the out and headed deep.
“I honestly thought I was about to give up a touchdown,” Wilson said. “I was happy that Lamar did throw the out route, which I was anticipating, and he didn’t throw the wheel route, because I wouldn’t have heard the end of that and that would’ve stuck with me for the rest of my life.”
Andrews was visibly upset, and instead of the Ravens cutting into the Browns’ lead, Cleveland got the ball on a short field and added a field goal.
Coach Freddie Kitchens said he’s sure opposing teams try to attack Wilson and he’s “fine with that.”
“Mack is an intelligent, bright guy with great instincts and awareness,” he said. “He is doing a good job. He is going to continue to do a good job and he is going to continue to get better.”
Baker Mayfield ran down the middle of the field with arms extended then flapping as running back Nick Chubb streaked to an 88-yard touchdown Sunday. The picture of Mayfield went viral.
“It was funny,” Chubb said.
He wasn’t surprised by the support from his quarterback.
“It makes sense because as soon as I turned around, he was the first person I saw,” Chubb said. “He was moving fast. I saw he ran 18 or 19 (mph) so he was pretty fast. That’s crazy.”
Chubb was clocked at 21.95 mph, the fastest speed on a touchdown in the NFL this season, according to Next Gen Stats. Mayfield was clocked at 18.92 mph.
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) September 30, 2019
The Browns have an extra day before the Monday night game at San Francisco and don’t practice until Thursday after a walk-through Tuesday. Kitchens hopes the time allows receiver Jarvis Landry to be cleared from concussion protocol.
He left the game late in the third quarter Sunday.
“Hopefully he will get back at some point and get some good reps in and get ready to play,” Kitchens said.
** Receiver Rashard Higgins did some straight-line running as he tries to return from a knee injury. He’s missed three straight games.
“He looks like he is getting close to me, but I am not the trainer,” Kitchens said.
** Cornerbacks Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams have each missed two games with hamstring injuries, and Kitchens labeled them “day-to-day.”
Right tackle Chris Hubbard returned after missing a game with what he said was a slight crack in a bone in his left foot. He played every snap but the kneel-down at the end.
“I thought Hub played his best game to date … which I fully expect him to do moving forward,” Kitchens said.
Hubbard was still in a walking boot last week before returning to practice.
“All of our guys up front are pretty tough individuals, mentally and physically,” Kitchens said. “You have to be to be able to play those positions in this league. It says a lot about his character and his ability to fight through some things.”
Hubbard said the foot held up well.
“I didn’t feel anything,” he said. “It felt good to be out there with my teammates and to take on AFC North football.”
Defensive end Myles Garrett had six sacks in the first three games but was blanked Sunday. He posted a picture on Instagram of him and defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi on the bench smiling, with the caption: No sacks? No problem. Find a way to win! P.S Larry had a sack.
“That’s just how he is,” Ogunjobi said. “He’s a team player, he wants his guys to do well. That’s what you need.
“The greatest players that anybody’s ever been around always find a way to make the guys around them better. I feel like if you want to be great, that’s what you’ve got to do, you’ve got to find ways to pick up your teammates, find ways to make the guys around you better. And he does that, so it’s awesome.”
The Browns played Monday night at the Jets in Week 2, Sunday night at home in Week 3 and will face the 49ers on the road Monday in Week 5.
“I would have made the schedule differently, but they did not ask me when they did it,” Kitchens said.
** NFL Films captured the sideline reaction to defensive tackle Devaroe Lawrence catching a deflected pass for an interception.
“Devaroe looked like one of them bridesmaids trying to catch the bouquet,” Ogunjobi said.
** Chubb and Mayfield are finalists for the FedEx ground and air players of the week. Fans can vote online.