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Thomas, Shurmur see strength up front

Posted Aug 26, 2012

Joe Thomas and coach Pat Shurmur feel the offensive line could be a strength of the Browns in 2012.

The average age of the five starters along the Cleveland Browns’ offensive line is 24.6 years old, but with that youth comes a combined 16 years of NFL experience.

Last year, Joe Thomas (left tackle), then-rookie Jason Pinkston (left guard), Alex Mack (center) and Shawn Lauvao (right guard) started each of the team’s 16 games. All four of those players return, and rookie Mitchell Schwartz has worked his way into the starting lineup at right tackle.

“As an offensive line, generally speaking, as you go, the offense goes because you’re kind of the tone-setters,” Thomas said after Sunday’s practice. “Even if it’s a game where you’re throwing the ball a lot, I think it’s all about setting the tone for the offense. Whether we’re the youngest group or the oldest group, I think the offensive line is where everything starts on offense.

“We’ve got some good players up front. We’ve got the most experience as far as the offense goes and I just think we have a really solid offensive line all across the group.”

Once the rookie student who learned the game from veterans like guard Eric Steinbach and center Hank Fraley, Thomas is now the mentor to his teammates, like Schwartz and Pinkston.

“I think he’s doing a really good job,” Thomas said of Schwartz. “I’ve enjoyed spending a lot of time with him in training camp and I think he’s doing a really nice job. I think he’s right where he wants to be.

“Jason’s made a big, big jump. I’ve been really happy with the way he’s played so far. Our cohesion has really improved and I think it’s going to be a lot of fun playing next to him this year.”

The Browns and their offensive linemen faced a quick and aggressive defensive front in Friday’s loss to the Philadelphia Eagles at Cleveland Browns Stadium. The Wide Nine look that Philadelphia employed helped register five sacks for 36 lost yards.

“Remember, all sacks aren’t the offensive line,” Browns coach Pat Shurmur said Sunday. “We took a sack-fumble on a screen play, so that goes to the timing of the whole offense. We had a third-and-long situation where there are backs and tight ends also involved in the protection. I’m very confident our offensive line will be one of the strengths of our team.”

Thomas felt the Browns were able to move the ball, especially on the opening possession of the game, despite Philadelphia’s pressure. The team will get another chance to play that Wide Nine front in the regular season opener against the Eagles at Cleveland Browns Stadium on Sept. 9.

“If you look at the first drive, we took the ball 13 plays right down the field, down to the two-yard line and should’ve scored a touchdown,” Thomas said. “We had the ball 40-something plays in the first half and (were) moving it outside of turnovers.

“When we play them again in a couple weeks, we’re going to have the benefit of game-planning and custom-tailoring our offense to how we want to attack their defense. I expect a much better performance.”

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