Five questions to take us into the Browns’ 2018 season opener against the Steelers.
With the drafting of OL Austin Corbett, it gives the Browns some talent depth wise along the offensive line. Although it may seem like a good problem to have, I find it difficult to believe that we used a high second-round pick to be a rotational backup. If Corbett isn't the LT and Bitonio moves back to LG then where does he fit in? I know it's too early to really tell where his home is on the OL, but was wondering if you could shed some light on this issue. -- Terry W., Columbus
Since he joined the team in May, Corbett has played a number of different spots to see where he can best help the Browns in 2018. In doing so, he’s learned a lot and -- in the wake of Friday’s news that undrafted rookie Desmond Harrison would be the team’s starting left tackle -- looks to be one of the team’s top options at “sixth man” in the event one of the starters gets hurt.
The bulk of Corbett’s time in the preseason was spent at left guard with the first-team offense, and the Browns worked him hard at the position. No one played more preseason snaps than Corbett, who started every game and played deep into all of them. There were some highs and lows for Corbett, who played his entire college career at tackle. Though Corbett was projected by many scouting experts to eventually move to guard in the NFL, it’s still a transition that is tough to master within the first few months. Not everyone can be like Joel Bitonio right from the jump. Ultimately, Browns coaches opted to move Bitonio back to left guard and now Corbett has the chance to hone his skills behind the scenes. He’s worked on his snapping and very well could step in as the team’s center if JC Tretter went down with an injury.
“Pretty much everyone has taken snaps,” Corbett said. “Everyone has got to be ready for that. Snaps all the time and make sure that we all know the calls from a center perspective and getting ready for that.”
Browns coach Hue Jackson said Friday the decision to bump Corbett out of the starting lineup “does not say anything about Austin.”
“He just keeps working and keeps getting better,” Jackson said. “We are glad that he is on our team. Austin can do a lot of different things.”
What do you think of the special teams going into Week 1? Is there a chance that the Browns could bring back Matthew Dayes? Is Danny Vitale considered a part of the 53 man roster? Are all the current 53 men healthy? -- Ronny F., Richmond Heights
Whoa, four rapid-fire questions to kick things off. I’ll answer them back in concise fashion, starting from the top.
- Work in progress. It was nice to see both of the team’s incumbents at kicker and punter, Zane Gonzalez and Britton Colquitt, stave off their competition during the preseason. The Browns special teams units are still young as a whole. Avoiding penalties will be crucial.
- There’s always a chance. Dayes knows the offense and played on all of the special teams units. A quick Twitter search reveals Dayes recently worked out for the Patriots and Lions. He’s still looking for a landing spot.
- Vitale is on injured reserve, meaning he is not on the 53-man roster. The Browns are not currently carrying a fullback on the 53.
- The Browns have a handful of players on this week’s injury report, but only DB E.J. Gaines (knee) has been ruled out. LB James Burgess (concussion) is doubtful.
Put the stripe back on the Browns helmet, it’s been a part of the uniform since the beginning of the team and its history. The stripeless helmets look plain and unprofessional. -- Tom L., West Liberty
You’ll be happy when you see the players Sunday and beyond. They’ve earned their stripes and will wear them on their helmets through the entire season.
The Browns definitely had some tough decisions to make when they shrunk the roster from 90 to 53, and those decisions got even tougher on the first day of waiver claims. Even with a deeper roster, the Browns’ player personnel group did its homework and found numerous players it believes will make Cleveland an even better team. In turn, Cleveland said goodbye to players like the ones you mentioned who are viewed as 53-man roster-worthy players around the NFL. That group included the Browns’ final 2018 draft pick, defensive back Simeon Thomas, who was claimed by the Seahawks.
“Roll up your sleeves and go to work. Have no ego,” Browns general manager John Dorsey said. “The task at hand is to get better from a personnel standpoint. We are going to do our due diligence, communicate, be collaborative and we are going to turn over every stone. The philosophy behind turning over every stone, that is what we are going to do.”
Genard Avery was one of the most pleasant surprises from training camp and the preseason, as the fifth-round pick earned work with the first-team defense in games against the Bills and Eagles. The “human bowling ball,” as Joe Schobert described him, has already proved himself to be one of the team’s most dangerous pass rushers, and the hope is for him to build off that momentum Sunday against the Steelers. He’s been limited in practice throughout the week because of a glute injury but is expected to be available.
“We knew a lot about him anyway, and then once he got here, once we were able to slow down and not try to teach him too much, now focusing on the little things on a few of the rush capability things he can do, he is pretty solid in that area,” defensive coordinator Gregg Williams said.