News

Print
RSS

2012 Position Review: Offensive Line

Posted Jan 31, 2013

As ClevelandBrowns.com looks back at the 2012 season, we break down the year position-by-position, and today’s spotlight is on the offensive line.

Overview:

The Cleveland Browns struggled to find a healthy right tackle during the 2011 season, and they addressed that need by selecting Mitchell Schwartz out of the University of California-Berkeley with their second-pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.

The Browns bookended their offensive line with Schwartz on one side and a perennial Pro Bowler in Joe Thomas at left tackle. Despite losing second-year guard Jason Pinkston early in the season because of blood clots, the Browns’ offensive line proved to be a consistent group.

They allowed 36 sacks for 233 lost yards, which averages out to just over two sacks per game over a 16-game schedule.

Behind Thomas, left guard John Greco, center Alex Mack, right guard Shawn Lauvao and Schwartz, rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden completed 297 of 517 attempts for a Browns’ rookie record 3,385 yards and 14 touchdowns against 17 interceptions. Weeden set three Browns rookie records -- most passing yards in a season, game (364 in a 20-17 win over Oakland on Dec. 2), and wins (five). Weeden had enough time in the pocket to complete 49 passes of at least 20 yards, as well as three of the top six longest touchdown passes ever by a Browns rookie.

The offensive line also blocked for rookie running back Trent Richardson, who rushed for six team rookie records. Richardson gained 950 rushing yards and totaled 1,317 yards from scrimmage during his rookie season. He also scored the most rushing (11) and overall (12) touchdowns, as well as points (72) by a Browns rookie. Richardson finished the year with three 100-yard games, tied for the most ever by a Browns rookie.

“They’re kind of the anchor of everything we do,” Weeden said. “They kept me clean pretty much every game. I think they played outstanding week-in and week-out. I think they’re probably the most consistent group offensively. I’m very fortunate to have the guys in front of me that are there because they played their tails off, not only for me, but for Trent as well. “Running the football and doing the things to open up the throwing game, and vice-versa, I would say they’re the most valuable part of our offense. Those guys have been remarkable all year.”

Outstanding Performer:

After another season where he took every offensive snap at left tackle, Thomas made his sixth consecutive appearance in the Pro Bowl earlier this month. He has started every game and taken each snap on the Browns’ offensive line since being selected with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft.

Thomas has played in 96 consecutive games, which is tied for the sixth-longest active streak among all NFL offensive linemen. With this all-star game appearance, Thomas joined running back Leroy Kelly, Pro Football Hall of Fame guard Gene Hickerson and tackle Dick Schafrath in a third-place tie for the most Pro Bowl appearances in franchise history.

“When I found out I was coming to Cleveland, I knew I had a Pro Bowl left tackle,” Weeden said. “I think any quarterback would be lying if they said that didn’t make them sleep better at night. He’s a security blanket back there. You know what you’re going to get from Joe. We’ve got some great edge rushers not only in this division, but in this game that Joe’s able to contain and keep them off my blindside. He’s a great leader. He rallies those four other guys and is the centerpiece of that offensive line.”

Key Number:

Four.

The Browns had four players take every snap of the season on their respective side of the football and all of them were offensive linemen. Thomas, Mack, Lauvao and Schwartz started every game for the Browns.

Along with Thomas, Mack has started every game since being drafted by the Browns in 2009. His games-played streak currently stands at 64, and Lauvao has made 32 straight starts.

What To Watch For:

The progress Schwartz makes with a second full offseason of work and training camp.

During his first preseason game, Schwartz lined up and struggled against the “wide-nine” look of the Detroit Lions and saw the same front in the preseason home opener against the Philadelphia Eagles. However, when the Eagles returned for the regular-season opener, Schwartz made the necessary adjustments, as Weeden was sacked just twice in the one-point loss to Philadelphia.

“The thing about Mitchell is he’s one of the smartest guys on this football team,” Weeden said. “It’s not even close. If you tell him something once, he’s got it. He’s able to talk to you after the game and remember a play. He sees everything and it’s like the game is moving in slow-motion for him. That’s unbelievable for a rookie. Going against great pass rushers, he’s played extremely well all year. If you don’t hear their name and don’t know much about them, that’s usually a good thing. He’s got an extremely bright future and having those two guys on the edge is always a positive.”