D'Qwell Jackson started off 2012 with a contract extension that made him one of the highest paid linebackers in the NFL. Next up, his fellow players voted him onto the "Top 100 players for 2012 list" on the NFL Network.
Even with the recognition from his employer and his peers, most NFL fans don't know that D'Qwell Jackson is one of the best linebackers in the NFL.
One of the main reasons D'Qwell is so under the radar is that the Cleveland Browns haven't been that good.
Another reason: his injuries have cost him. The majority of his two seasons prior to 2011 Jackson ended up on the injured reserve list.
Despite suffering injuries that would have derailed most players' careers, D'Qwell bounced back with an incredible 2011 to lead a Browns defense that ranked in the top 10 in points and yards allowed.
Individually, Jackson put up stats that normally would have put a player in the Pro Bowl.
The 2011 stats speak for themselves: 116 solo tackles, 3.5 sacks, one forced fumble, one interception—while playing middle linebacker on a bad team.
I know people will say the defense played so many snaps that he piled up stats, but this was not the case with D'Qwell, as noted by the players who presented him in the top players video.
A healthy D'Qwell Jackson is not only one of the most underrated players on the Browns, but in the NFL.
Here are some other players in each position group that are flying under the radar for the Cleveland Browns.
Alex Mack, is one of the best young centers in the league. He will be key to helping Brandon Weeden get into the right protections at the line of scrimmage.
Chris Ogbonnaya is the backup running back that no one talks about in Cleveland. While Montario Hardesty and Brandon Jackson have gotten most of the replacement carries for Trent Richardson, Ogbonnaya was the most reliable back for the Browns in 2011.
His game-day availability gives him a great chance to make the team and be a key contributor.
Jordan Norwood was the fastest guy in the wide receiver group in 2011 for the Cleveland Browns. Now, with Travis Benjamin on the roster, Norwood has been passed up on the depth chart, but his value has increased with Brandon Weeden in need of more deep targets for his rocket arm.
Eric Hagg, who only played in 2011 to cover for injuries and the six-defensive back package, is now one of the starting safeties with T.J. Ward.
Hagg has played well in the preseason, and he will need to continue to play well in order for the defense to keep their high ranking from last season.
Ahtyba Rubin was an afterthought in Phil Savage's last draft with the Cleveland Browns. The sixth-round pick from Iowa State has done nothing but make plays ever since.
One of the reasons D'Qwell Jackson played so well was the switch to the four-man defensive line, which allows Rubin to keep offensive linemen off the middle linebacker. The big man will have to play a little bigger with Phil Taylor out for the first half of the season.
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