For the first time in recent memory, just about every starting position on the Browns offense appears to have a cast of front-runners in place before the first practice of training camp.
There's no question about who will be the quarterback and the top two running backs. The same can be said about the wide receivers – at least the first two. On the offensive line, spots at center, left guard and both tackle positions can be penciled in with veterans or, at the left tackle position, a promising rookie first-round draft pick.
But what about right guard?
That position is the only blank space the Browns can't quite fill on their offensive depth chart at the moment. Offensive line coach Bill Callahan, however, believes Cleveland can find its starter internally.
"We have not really set a depth chart, listed a starter or named the RG position," Callahan said Thursday in a video call with local reporters. "That is up for grabs. I really believe we have some excellent players in there in Wyatt Teller, Drew Forbes, Colby Gossett and Willie Wright. There will be a lot of time for competition. I think that will sort itself out as we move along."
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If training camp began today, Teller would be the leader in experience. The three-year veteran committed just two penalties and allowed one sack in nine starts at the position last year, according to Pro Football Focus. Gossett is the only other member of this group who has started a game, and he has just four.
Forbes isn't far behind Teller, though. He received reps at just about every offensive line position as a training camp rookie last August, and he was a serious candidate to win the right guard position before he suffered a knee injury in the final preseason game. If Forbes isn't a Week 1 starter, he could be viewed as a viable backup for a number of positions on the offensive line.
Gossett and Wright, meanwhile, carry a combined five games of experience — all of which were played by Gossett with the Arizona Cardinals in 2018.
Callahan, who's been an offensive line coach at the college and professional level for over four decades, hopes that someone will emerge from the large group of candidates, but he can't pick any frontrunners until he sees them on the field. That won't happen until the Browns can make a safe return to team practices after the completion of the virtual offseason program created to allow players to train during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I am still getting familiarized with all the players," Callahan said. "I have not met them all yet — just only virtually. It is always such a change, and we are just going to keep assessing and evaluating the position as we move forward."
There's one more player whom Callahan didn't mention in his list of candidates who can't be ruled out, either: Chris Hubbard.
Hubbard, a seven-year veteran, has played exclusively as a tackle in Cleveland thus far, but he does have prior NFL experience at center and guard with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Callahan believes Hubbard has the athleticism to play a variety of positions even though Jack Conklin and Jedrick Wills Jr. are set for the starting tackle jobs. Hubbard could be used as a swing tackle, but his athleticism could be also suitable at right guard under the new wide-zone blocking scheme coach Kevin Stefanski will utilize on offense.
"I think he is a really good football player," said Callahan, who also said he was interested in Hubbard as a free agent when Callahan was a coach with the Washington Redskins in 2018. "I know his heart is in it. I think he has a lot of value and a lot of upside. He will definitely help us at some point. You can never have enough of those guys. The value of a player like Chris. You just can't make up for it."
The right guard competition certainly will be one of the top battles when the Browns make their return to the practice fields.
And under the tutelage of Callahan, one of the most experienced offensive line coaches in the league, the position battle is in great hands.
"We are just going to keep assessing and evaluating the position as we move forward," Callahan said. "There are enough candidates in there that I think someone will rise to the occasion and take over that spot."