The Browns have talent in each direction Joel Bitonio looks when he lines up at left guard and prepares to block for what could be one of the top offensive attacks in the NFL this season.
Bitonio, a six-year veteran, is one of the leaders of that offense, and he’s liked what he’s seen so far as the Browns continue their week in Indianapolis looking to inch closer toward making this season’s high offensive expectations a reality.
ClevelandBrowns.com talked with Bitonio ahead of the Browns’ second preseason game against the Colts and discussed the progress of the offense so far.
CB.com: How do you think the two practices with the Colts have gone?
Bitonio: I think it was really solid. I think it's always good to get some extra work in with different guys. You always want to see different pass rush moves, different teams and different schemes defensively. It was fun to go out there and battle. It got a little heated in the second day, but I think pretty much everyone in the second day gets a little heated. You get yelled at from coaches if you're not doing something right the night before, and you want to come out and really show out the next day. So it got a little heated, but I think, overall, we showed some really good things, and it'll be fun to play them on Saturday.
Check out the best 35mm film photos from the first few weeks of Browns Camp by team photographer Matt Starkey
CB.com: Do you think you guys were a better overall team in the second practice?
Bitonio: Yeah, I think so. I think we did some really good stuff the first day. I think we ran the ball really well, but there was a lot more energy at practice the second day. It was a normal, clean practice, and we had a couple big plays on the two-minute drive. It was good. We felt good after the second day.
CB.com: How does the overall experience of the joint practice help the team come together?
Bitonio: The O-line has a lot of time to hang out, tell stories and play some card games. We have a room with a shuffleboard table and things like that, so it's been fun. You get to know your guys a little bit more. In training camp, you have such a regimen at home where you're doing the same thing every day. Here, you see different guys and run into different people, so it's pretty cool to see.
CB.com: Were you the one that put in that request for the shuffleboard table?
Bitonio: Yeah, it was a Joel Bitonio game room for the weekend. We got an Xbox in there, some ping pong, so it's fun. It's not quite that good of a board (room), but it gets the job done for the week.
CB.com: Is that a request that you couldn't have made as a rookie?
Bitonio: 100 percent. I might not have made it last year. I asked a few other people, and someone was just like, 'Just ask Freddie.' So I asked Freddie and he was like, 'Uh, yeah. We should've done that a while ago.' It was easy. Freddie is a good coach, and he'll make sure we get the things we need.
CB.com: What is it about the two-minute offense where everything is just working for the team?
Bitonio: Baker does a good job of getting us in the right spots, and then we just have to execute from there. We do a good enough job of pass protecting, and he gets the ball in a receiver's hands and then they make some plays. That catch from Jaelen (Strong) down the sideline was a huge catch, and then Jarvis (Landry) made a couple big plays. When you're converting like that, it's pretty easy. I don't know if the Colts gave us every look they had. They kind of sat back and played a little Cover 2, but it was fun to go out there and score. Every time you get a score on a two-minute drill, it's pretty fun.
CB.com: What did you like about the run-blocking game so far and how much has it improved since the start of camp?
Bitonio: (The Colts) are a penetrating front, so they have guys that are athletic and can get up the field. Any time you can get a couple bodies on them, you have a chance to move them a little bit. It's hard at practice because you see arm tackles and you think, 'Oh, would he have dove there to make that tackle?' With (Nick) Chubb most of the time, I'm like, 'I don't think they're making that tackle.' Yesterday, we saw a 65-yarder where Chubb literally didn't get touched. I was like, 'I think he made that. He scored on that one.' Run-blocking, even more than pass-blocking, takes time to develop the rapport with your guys. How do you work a double-team? How do you feel when guys are moving around? I think that with every day that goes on, we get a little bit better.
CB.com: What have you seen from Drew Forbes and the way he's tackled so many offensive line positions so far?
Bitonio: I think it's finally starting to slow down a little for him. I think the first OTAs and the first couple weeks of camp, you have so many places around you and his feet are just going crazy and his brain is like 'ahh,' and then he just goes out there and does something. Now it's fine, and he's understanding and he can take one step at a time. It's moving fast, but it's not moving that fast. I think that's just for the rookie, when you can make that step. It's good. He's physical, and he plays hard. Those are things you can't really coach. You're just trying to build off of that with everything else.
CB.com: Do you still give him heat for the 'Prospect X' thing?
Bitonio: I think he'll get heat for that forever.
CB.com: How has he handled that?
Bitonio: He's good. He's quiet, so it's not as fun to mess with him, but I think he's embraced it a little bit.
CB.com: How do the joint practices make the actual preseason game feel different?
Bitonio: You almost feel like you know the guys a little bit. You wonder if they showed you every pass rush move they had on 1-on-1s or if they're holding some of it back. You wonder what's going on. After the game, you have more respect for a guy you've been battling in practice. You say, 'Hey, it was fun, and we'll see you down the road, hopefully.'
CB.com: What are you looking for the offensive line to accomplish in the second preseason game?
Bitonio: Just continue to build on what we did in the first game. We didn't get a huge amount of playing time, but just continue to grow and try to take the next step. We passed the ball quite a few times that first game, so we'll see what goes. Whatever they call, we'll just go out there and try to execute it and build on what we did on the first week.