With Cleveland Browns LB Craig Robertson Injured, Who is the Next Man Up?

Updated: November 20, 2013

In Sunday’s disappointing loss to the division-leading Cincinnati Bengals, the Cleveland Browns may have lost one of their starters for next week against Pittsburgh. During the 41-20 blowout, inside linebacker Craig Robertson suffered a knee sprain that put him out of the game. At a time when the team needed a flawless second half from the defense, the loss was a big one, as the team went on to surrender another 10 points in the fourth quarter to take a comeback attempt off the table.

In Robertson’s place came former TCU linebacker, Tank Carder. A special teams standout normally, Carder entered the game and racked up two solo tackles and five assisted tackles. He looked prepared, as this Browns coaching staff insists on, and provided stability in the middle of the field. Known for his coverage ability, Carder held his own in run support, as the Bengals rode their 31-point second quarter performance out until the end of the game.

Scott Petrak of The Elyria Chronicle-Telegram recently released a report that stated Robertson was expected to have an MRI this past Monday, although no official results have been released at the time of publishing. If the MRI turns up any significant damage that keeps Robertson off the field, Carder will certainly be first in line for the role.

Replacing Robertson’s 65 tackles, three sacks and one forced fumble can not come easy, but improving on his coverage ability seems like a given. Robertson has allowed a league-worst 89.6 percent of passes completed to receivers while he is in coverage, a staggering number to say the least.

Receiving back-to-back Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year honors, Carder was known for his coverage skills while at TCU. Pro Football Weekly’s scouting report of him indicates that he is, “Fairly athletic. Good straight-line movement and foot speed. Scrapes and flows. Generates some initial pop on contact. Drops into coverage and shows alert zone reactions. Good hands to intercept passes. Has a special-teams mentality and traits. Vocal on-field leader. Three-year starter. Solid football character.”

At 6’2″ and 238 pounds, Carder fulfills defensive coordinator Ray Horton’s demand for “little guys that can hit.” While he might not be the most physically gifted, by all accounts, he makes up for it in heart. He might remind some Browns fans of another former undersized linebacker that made his mark on special teams, Kaluka Maiava. For fans that remember, Maiava ended up as a starting linebacker in 2012 before his offseason departure. His tenacity helped him notch 53 tackles, two forced fumbles, three passes defensed and two sacks that season.

That same style of aggressive play is what could also make Carder effective in this Browns defense should he start this Sunday. There is no indication yet whether or not Robertson will play, but it’s a safe bet that Horton will have his entire linebacking core locked and loaded in preparation for a knock-out, drag-out battle this weekend.

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