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Position Preview: Offensive Line

Posted Jul 11, 2012

Over the next few weeks, ClevelandBrowns.com will take a look at the 2012 Browns, position-by-position. Today’s spotlight is on the Browns offensive linemen.

Overview:

The Cleveland Browns had consistency at four of the five positions on their offensive line during the 2011 regular season.

Five-time Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas, rookie left guard Jason Pinkston, Pro Bowl center Alex Mack and second-year right guard Shawn Lauvao started each of the Browns’ 16 regular-season games. They provided stability to an area that had seen its share of injuries over recent years.

Thomas and Mack were mainstays along the offensive line, while Lauvao competed in training camp for the right guard spot. Pinkston, whom the Browns converted from a college tackle to professional guard, entered the starting lineup earlier than expected when veteran Eric Steinbach was lost for the season to a back injury early in training camp.

Pinkston was one of six rookie NFL offensive linemen and one of only two guards to start all 16 games in 2011. He was the third Browns rookie since 2007 to start every game as a first-year professional player. Thomas (2007) and Mack (2009) were the others.

While the Browns had consistency at four of the five positions on the offensive line, right tackle proved more challenging.

Veteran Tony Pashos missed the first three games of the season and was replaced by Oniel Cousins and Artis Hicks. Pashos came back and started 12 straight games, but an illness prevented him from finishing the season. Hicks started the final game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Jan. 1, 2012.

During the 2012 NFL Draft last April, the Browns addressed the offensive line by selecting tackle Mitchell Schwartz and guard Ryan Miller.

Key Number:

Three.

The Browns surrendered 39 sacks for 210 lost yards in 2011. They allowed three more sacks than in 2010, when Browns opponents registered 36 sacks for 214 lost yards.

Despite the increased sacks allowed, the Browns surrendered less yards on those sacks and the team attempted 92 more passes in 2011.

Players to Watch:

Schwartz and Miller.

Behind Schwartz, a 6-foot-5, 317-pound lineman, the Golden Bears averaged 28.3 points and 401.5 yards of offense per game in 2011.

Schwartz was a durable lineman during his time at Cal and started each of his 51 career games. He made 35 starts at left tackle and also played on the right side of the offensive line. With Thomas entrenched at the left tackle spot, Schwartz figures on being a right tackle for the foreseeable future.

Schwartz was the third consecutive offensive player picked by the Browns in 2012. He joined running back Trent Richardson and quarterback Brandon Weeden as the team’s first three selections in the 2012 NFL Draft.

“There’s a lot of really good competition out here,” Schwartz said during the offseason workouts. “You’ve got a lot of great guys on defense that you’re going against and I think you can see the whole offense going on a progression.

“Something I pride myself on is not making mental mistakes out there. I think the coaches can trust you’re going to be in the right spot when you need to be there. It’s part of being a good teammate; it’s part of being a good player on the field.”

Miller, from the University of Colorado, was the 25th pick in the fifth round (No. 160 overall) in the 2012 NFL Draft.

In drafting Miller, the Browns took a player who learned early in his career what it meant to play with a mean streak on an offensive line.

“I really try to play aggressive; I try to play nasty; I try to play vicious; I try to play till the whistle blows,” Miller said after he was drafted by the Browns. “I may not be the most technically sound, but I’ll give you my all. I’ll bleed, fight, claw, scratch to get the job done. I think it came from high school when we ran the ball every play and just having the country boy mentality that nothing in life is easy and you get what you work for. It’s always just kind of been do-or-die for me.”

As a senior, Miller played 850 of Colorado’s 851 offensive snaps. The one snap he missed allowed another senior offensive lineman to finish the game against the University of Arizona. Having gained the experience he did at Colorado, Miller is looking forward to continuing his football career with the Browns.

“I know the speed of the game is much faster than in college, but there’s really two ways to play football, run the ball and pass the ball,” Miller said. “Each team kind of has some similarities, whether it be NFL, college, high school. A power’s a power, a zone is a zone and a deep ball’s a deep ball.”

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