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Cleveland Browns' new offensive scheme calls for athletic O-line play


Right Tackle Mitchell Schwartz is entering his third season with the Cleveland Browns.

The one certainty amidst a whole lot of uncertainty concerning the Browns' offense is that it's going to undergo a makeover.

Gone is the deep-dropping passing attack, throw-to-set-up-the-run approach of former Browns offensive coordinator Norv Turner.

In its place is a scheme, courtesy of new offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, whose foundation is the running game.

The Browns will be employing what Shanahan calls an outside-zone rushing attack, in which linemen primarily block while moving laterally. For the most part, each running play begins with the back making his first move to the outside and then cutting inside through one of the seams created by the line's lateral motion.

The offense requires linemen to have enough athleticism to move and enough size and strength to clear defenders out of the way. Additionally, they need to be able to get low enough to take the legs out of ends attempting to set the edge to stop the run.

The Browns have at least one critical component to the line in seven-time Pro Bowl selection Joe Thomas. Whether they will have another, Pro Bowl center Alex Mack, remains to be seen. On Monday, the Browns gave him a transition tag. That means, if the two sides don't agree on a new contract by 4 p.m. ET on March 11, Mack is free to solicit an offer from any other NFL team that the Browns could match to retain him. If they don't match, they would lose Mack without receiving compensation.

Still, larger question marks loom elsewhere on the offensive line.

Are the Browns comfortable with sticking with right tackle Mitchell Schwartz, who is entering his third season after an up-and-down second year?

Can they find answers at guard, where there was considerable instability due to injury and performance issues?

Given the philosophical change, it would seem to make sense for the Browns to pursue specific zone-blocking help at guard and/or tackle in free agency and the draft.

Potential free agents are Baltimore's Eugene Monroe, Oakland's Jared Veldheer, Kansas City's Branden Albert, and St. Louis' Rodger Saffold.

The draft offers some elite tackle prospects, such as Texas A&M's Jake Matthews, Auburn's Greg Robinson, and Michigan's Taylor Lewan. Possibilities at guard are Stanford's David Yankey, UCLA's Xavier Su'a-Filo, and Mississippi State's Gabe Jackson.

>>This Road to the Draft segment is driven by Liberty Ford.

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