Austin Corbett and Joel Bitonio have quite a few similarities.
Both played left tackle in college at Nevada, where they were first-team All-Mountain West Conference selections. They were each taken by the Browns in the second round of their NFL Draft; Corbett was picked 33rd in his draft class, Bitonio was the 35th pick. They have now each played left guard in the NFL.
Although they played under two different head coaches at Nevada, they have some things in common with their playing style, too. All of this earned them a collective nickname from their fellow linemen: “the twins.”
“Their sets are almost identical,” center JC Tretter said. “Which we laugh about in the meeting room. They’re both great guys and they’re both hard workers. As football players, they’re similar in how they move and how they play. ”
Of course, Corbett has modeled his game after Bitonio’s. He took over for Bitonio at tackle when Bitonio graduated. Corbett had the tall task of replacing an all-conference left tackle.
And four years later, he’s replacing Bitonio again. With the departure of future Hall of Fame left tackle Joe Thomas, Bitonio was bumped outside to left tackle and Corbett was elevated to first-team left guard.
It’s tough to master footwork and co-existence with a new left guard during games and live reps, so Tretter, Bitonio and Corbett work together in meetings and film rooms to understand each other better on the field. Corbett is an intelligent player, which makes life easy for Tretter. Corbett hears something from Tretter one time and picks it up. He knows what to do.
Those football smarts translate to a better understanding of his teammates. Corbett is known to pick the veterans’ brains, study film and work hard. A simple recipe, yes, but one that can often equate to success on the field. It’s not just on-field etiquette, though. Corbett talks to Tretter and Bitonio about off-days, film breakdowns and game preparation.
“He’s one of the guys who wants to be great,” Tretter said.
As hard as it is to work on things in live situations, Corbett is excited for more reps in a game. The third preseason game is looked at as a “dress rehearsal,” giving Corbett valuable time to gel with his line-mates.
“I have just been trying to pick one of two things a day to work on and just carry it over every day,” he said. “Playing these two games and now coming up with this third preseason game, we are going to have the opportunity to get a lot of reps with our first group. That will be good just to play with them in that real live situation and do so in an extended way.”
He’s making progress, but he’s not there yet. Corbett’s just a rookie and he only has less than a full game worth of action under his belt in his NFL career. The similarities to Bitonio are striking, but Corbett isn’t quite there yet.
“Joel was a Pro-Bowl guard, so I’m not going to bump Corbett up there yet until he gets there. But as it comes to working, strength and power, they’re very similar,” Tretter said.
“Corbett has all the tools to accomplish what Joel’s been able to accomplish.”