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Training Camp

Cameron Erving must make 'best 5' to start on talented Cleveland Browns O-line

When Andy Moeller discusses Cameron Erving, Joel Bitonio's name comes up early and often. The Browns offensive line coach thinks the two offensive linemen are comparable when it pertains to their versatility, willingness to learn, mental capacity, NFL readiness and sky-high potential.

There's just one major difference.

When Bitonio arrived as a second-round pick last year, the Browns had an opening with minimal competition at left guard. It's where Bitonio was placed with the first-team offense early in training camp and where he's remained as one of the NFL's highest-performing interior linemen.

Erving, meanwhile, joined an offensive line that returned all of its season-opening starters from 2014. Able to play all five positions, the 19th overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft has spent most of training camp at right guard, a spot veteran John Greco won't give up without a true, competitive battle.

This, Moeller said, is a "great issue" for the Browns to have as they prepare to roll out an offense that will go as far as its veteran-heavy offensive line takes it.

"These are great questions and great problems to have, much better than who in the hell is going to be the next guy stepping up," Moeller said. "Trying to fit a puzzle of talented players together, that part of it is going to be really good.

"Joel is a little bit quicker, but they both do kind of remind me of one another from being able to handle things mentally, and from what I anticipate, how Cam will handle the pressure of a game, which I think he will do just fine."

The Browns' first-team offensive line of Joe Thomas at left tackle, Bitonio at left guard, Alex Mack at center, Greco at right guard and Mitchell Schwartz at right tackle hasn't changed since the start of training camp. When Thomas rested Saturday, second-team left tackle Andrew McDonald worked with the group while Erving remained with the second team.

Now and then, Erving can be seen working as the second team's left tackle but he hasn't devoted any time to center, the position at which he finished his career at Florida State. Erving learned the position within the Browns' offense during OTAs and mini-camp, but his focus has been narrowed through the first five training camp practices. Ryan Seymour has handled the second-team repetitions in the middle of the line.

Moeller and Browns coach Mike Pettine both emphasized the same point when it pertained to Erving's development and projection for the 2015 season: It's early.

"It is out of necessity when we give guys days off to bounce him around a little bit. I think as camp goes on he'll settle in," Pettine said. "He is a guy who I think as we get closer to the opener and we settle on how we are going to play, you will certainly see not just him, but all the players settle into the positions that will play a majority of the time."

Asked if he was worried Erving had been spread too thin during his first few months with the team, Pettine shrugged it off and called that particular notion "a little overrated." Erving's versatility was one of the main reasons why he was so coveted as a prospect, and he's shown the coaching staff no reason to believe he's been overwhelmed by the transition.

Even though he isn't working with the first-team offense now, his future opportunities to contribute are "greater," Moeller said, because he can be plugged wherever there's an opening. If he doesn't crack the starting lineup, he'll be the true definition of a sixth man.

Chemistry is rich along the Browns' veteran offensive line, and it's an important factor when Moeller evaluates the makeup of his group. It just doesn't trump "the best five," a group Erving will join if he proves it on the practice field and in the Browns' upcoming preseason games.

"That is being played out right now," Moeller said. "If he is, then he will be in there."

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