Dansby doing all he can at LB

CLEVELAND – Consistency isn’t always a good thing in sports.

The 2013 Browns finished the season 4-12 because of how consistently they blew fourth-quarter leads. Six of the losses occurred after the Browns took a lead into the final period.

Unfortunately, for ex-coach Rob Chudzinski, four of the six defeats came in the final five weeks of the season. The collapses were the driving force for the decision to fire Chudzinski after only one season.

The men that pulled the trigger on that move – CEO Joe Banner and general manager Michael Lombardi – met the same fate a few weeks later when owner James Haslam realized he needed to clean house.

Enter general manager Ray Farmer and coach Mike Pettine. They saw the need to change the attitude of the defense. Their first steps were subtractions in the decisions to part ways with inside linebacker D’Qwell Jackson and safety T.J. Ward. Jackson became a free agent when he wasn’t given a roster bonus in March and has since signed with Indianapolis. Ward, who wasn’t offered a contract, signed with Denver.

On the surface it seemed strange to not re-sign the leading tackler on defense (Jackson) and the second-leading tackler (Ward). Tackles, however, can be one of the most misleading statistics in football. The impact of Jackson’s 143 tackles and Ward’s 129 stops were minimal in the big picture.

That’s why Karlos Dansby is now firmly entrenched at mike inside linebacker. Dansby had a team-leading and career-high 135 tackles last season for the Arizona Cardinals, who led the NFL in run defense. All he got for that performance was a comfortable seat at home to watch the Pro Bowl on television.

“It’s a joke,” Dansby said of the Pro Bowl snub. “I have to go out and earn my respect. I’m going to go out and do it again this year.”

Dansby holds nothing back when assessing his skill level.

“I’m the best right now by far,” Dansby said. “That’s how I look at it. That’s how I approach it, and my numbers say the same.”

Dansby’s attitude has to be welcomed by Pettine and defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil as they try to instill a culture of intimidation. Donte Whitner, another arrival during the offseason, brings the same attitude to the secondary at safety. Another addition that is starting to get noticed is rookie linebacker Chris Kirksey, who’s pushing Craig Robertson for time next to Dansby.

“It has to be a mindset,” Dansby said. “It has to be contagious. You can talk about it all day, but if you go out there and execute on a daily basis and guys see it, it can get contagious. I’m trying to be that catalyst.”

Dansby is a late bloomer by NFL standards. He was selected in the second round of the NFL draft by the Cardinals in 2004 as a strong-side outside linebacker, but it wasn’t until he was moved to the inside a few years ago that his career took off.

“I’m just getting started,” said Dansby, who turns 33 in November. “I was never a mike linebacker. I grew into this position. I evolved with the game. When the game calls for me to come in and run around and do what I need to do I have to evolve or I’ll be out of the league.”

Dansby’s hope is that another good season will earn him the reputation he obviously craves.

“I have a chip on my shoulder because I’ve been underrated for a long time,” he said. “I haven’t had that recognition that I think I deserve. It’s not about what I did last year. It’s about what I’m going to do this year.”