Greg Robinson would be the first to admit he hasn’t appeared to be the strongest offensive lineman six days into Browns training camp.
The 2014 second-overall draft pick is hoping to solidify his role as the starting left tackle after he played the final eight games with the Browns a season ago. Training camp this season has likely been one of the toughest of Robinson’s five-year career, but he deserves some slack.
That’s because Robinson has mostly lined up against defensive end Myles Garrett, who’s arguably been the best Browns player thus far. Garrett’s elite acceleration and speedy instincts have been quite a challenge for Robinson, and they likely will be for every offensive lineman unfortunate enough to play opposite Garrett all season.
Even though Garrett — who led the Browns with 13.5 sacks in 2018 — has forced his way around Robinson more often than he’d like, Robinson wouldn’t want to practice against anyone else.
“(Garrett) has that initial snap off the ball, and if your technique is bad or if you take a false step, you basically lost,” Robinson said. “I couldn't ask for a better situation. I feel like it's only going to prepare me for a real game and live situations. I don't feel like I can get that work in anywhere else."
Robinson took over starting left tackle duties for the Browns in Week 9 of 2018 after he dealt with inconsistencies in previous stints with the Los Angeles Rams and Detroit Lions. He held the starting role for the rest of the season, and general manager John Dorsey rewarded Robinson’s strong finish with a one-year deal.
Check out photos from the sixth day of Browns Camp by team photographer Matt Starkey
At 26 years old, Robinson has ample time to prove his best football is yet to come. He wants to make the most of the short-term deal and cash in for a larger contract next season.
Robinson thinks practicing against Garrett will help him reach that. It’s better for Robinson to make a wrong step in practice and allow Garrett into the backfield when he’s not allowed to tackle quarterback Baker Mayfield.
Mistakes like those in real games won’t help the Browns improve from their 38 sacks allowed last season. Robinson normally knows immediately from the snap when Garrett will move around him, but when the raw talent of Garrett mystifies Robinson into a broken play, he’ll always check back with Garrett and see where he slipped up.
"If he beats me, nine times out of 10 I know what I did wrong before he tells me,” Robinson said. “I can honestly take a step, and I know when I'm beat, but we communicate a lot, and I feel like that's something that will make us better."
Time will tell if Robinson’s daily battles with Garrett will unleash the talent scouts raved about when he led Auburn’s offensive line six years ago. The Browns think it will, and head coach Freddie Kitchens won’t fault Robinson too often for allowing a Pro Bowl player to reach the backfield as frequently as Garrett.
That’s actually Kitchens’ expectations for Garrett. It’s not a knock on Robinson at all.
“I think Myles is a pretty good player, and I think Greg is a pretty good player,” Kitchens said. “I think that is a good competition. When Myles is in the backfield, I would say he is supposed to be there, and that is where I want him most of the game.”
After an up-and-down NFL career, Robinson just wants to put his best foot forward. Garrett is helping him do that — both on the field and from a mental standpoint.
That’s why Robinson feels like Cleveland is the perfect spot. He can’t control Garrett’s talent, but he can control how it will make him better.
“You got to be on your 'A' game every day," Robinson said. “I feel like this is the best work I can get.”