Linebacker Christian Kirksey said a different vibe exists with the Cleveland Browns this year.
Perhaps that’s why Kirskey boldly posted on social media last month that the Browns would make the playoffs this season. For the record, Cleveland hasn’t made the playoffs since 2002 and owns a 1-31 mark over the last two years — including an 0-16 season in 2017.
“Being one of the longest tenured players on the team, I’ve seen the teams come through Cleveland,” the 25-year-old Kirksey told NFL Network on Tuesday. “I’m going on to my second head coach, my third general manager, my third defensive coordinator, so I’ve seen players and front office people come in and out the building, and this is just a different feel.”
Kirksey declared that optimism exists based on the leadership and competitiveness of quarterback Tyrod Taylor. The 28-year-old guided Buffalo to the postseason for the first time since 1999 after completing 62.6 percent of his passes for 2,799 yards and 14 touchdowns with four interceptions in 2017.
“He’s our guy to take the field and finally have a competitive attitude on the offensive side of the ball,” Kirksey said of Taylor, who was acquired for a third-round pick. “Jarvis Landry, Josh Gordon, all those guys just have a swagger about themselves. In all my years I’ve never had that on the offensive side of the ball. Those guys are telling us, ‘We’re working today.'”
Kirksey was also encouraged by cornerback Denzel Ward, who the Browns selected out of Ohio State with the fourth overall pick of the 2018 NFL Draft.
“Just seeing him on the practice field, he’s like a silent assassin,” Kirksey said of Ward. “He don’t say too much, but when he’s on the field his play is lock. Him being a lockdown corner like I see will give Myles Garrett an extra step to the quarterback.”
Kirksey is coming off his second straight strong season, recording 138 tackles, 3.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery in 16 games.