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Position Previews

Browns 2018 training camp preview: Analyzing the O-line

It's been a busy week of position previews -- and it's not over yet!. We're wrapping up our analysis of the offense with a look at the big guys up front.


Shon Coleman
Joel Bitonio
JC Tretter
Kevin Zeitler
Chris Hubbard
Austin Corbett
Desmond Harrison
Spencer Drango
Austin Reiter
Greg Robinson
Fred Lauina
Avery Gennesy
Anthony Fabiano
Christian DiLauro
Victor Salako
Geoff Gray

What we know: The process to fill the spot vacated by future Hall of Famer Joe Thomas began, in earnest, with Shon Coleman getting most of the repetitions at left tackle with the first-team offense during OTAs and minicamp. Browns coaches liked what they saw from Coleman, who played right tackle last season but was a left tackle his entire life before 2016, but were not ready to put an end to the competition without seeing the players with pads. Corbett got his first crack at left tackle, working behind Coleman, but also picked up reps at left guard and right tackle. Harrison, an undrafted free agent, showed plenty of potential and might be one of the best athletes in the entire group. Robinson, a former No. 2 overall pick who boasts more experience at left tackle than anyone else in the competition, was signed after minicamp. The other four spots, meanwhile, looked relatively stable with Bitonio at left guard, Tretter at center, Zeitler at right guard and Hubbard at right tackle. Both Hue Jackson and offensive line coach Bob Wylie have indicated they'd prefer not to mess with the other four spots on the line, but they haven't yet ruled anything out as they look to get the best five players on the field.

Biggest question: What happens in the aftermath of the left tackle battle? The Browns are hoping one of the candidates makes the decision easy for them as training camp progresses. For the ones who don't, though, there are still valuable backup spots to fill, and versatility will be vital. Corbett, for example, already has started learning multiple positions and figures to be the most logical "sixth man" if he doesn't win a starting job. Coleman has a full year of experience at right tackle while Drango, who played left tackle in the wake of Thomas' season-ending injury, can play every spot on the offensive line with the exception of center. Roster spots are at a premium, and history tells us the Browns will carry either seven or eight offensive linemen. How many places at which a player can help could go a long way toward figuring out who makes the cut.

X-Factor: Bitonio has said he'd prefer not to make the switch to left tackle after spending the past four seasons at guard. It just hasn't been 100 percent ruled out as an option in the event Browns coaches conclude their best combination of five puts Bitonio at left tackle and someone else (Corbett, perhaps) at left guard. Bitonio picked up a handful of repetitions at left tackle, a position he played in college, during OTAs and minicamp but spent the vast majority of time at his traditional left guard spot. "We've got a lot of bodies," Wylie said. "Find out which guy is the best over there. Just because you're the best guy doesn't mean you're in the best spot. If you took Joel and you moved Joel out to left tackle, he's one of the top four-five guards in the league. He's an elite left guard and you move him out to tackle and now he's just a tackle. He doesn't have all the nuances of playing the spot. It's going to take him a while to learn all that. That's why you're always kind of leery about when you're making the moves or how you're making the moves."

Stat tracker: One year after starting seven different offensive line combinations, the Browns used just two in 2017 -- one with Joe Thomas and one without.

Says it all: "Once you get to training camp, you're kind of getting more zeroed in to 'Hey, I need to find out who the five guys are going to be.' You've got to zero in at training camp and you don't want to have to move too many guys … Once we put the pads on, you're going to see a little different attitude about them." -- Wylie

How many were kept at last year's 53-man cutdown? 10