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Training Camp

From Prospect X to swing lineman: Drew Forbes juggles four positions in first camp

While we track every turn at the rotating right guard carousel and watch closely the battle between Greg Robinson and Myles Garrett, some might feel a little bit of offensive line fatigue.

Imagine how Drew Forbes feels.

The sixth-round pick of the Browns arrived as a left tackle, and he's getting reps at the same position in camp. He's also seeing time at right guard. And left guard. And right tackle.

Forbes played all of the aforementioned positions except for right tackle Wednesday, and he indicated afterward he'd have gotten a rep at the position had the period not ended. It's not quite as drastic, though, because in reality he's only playing two different positions most of the time, and making cameo appearances at the other two.

Still, that's as many as four positions to play in one practice, in a player's first NFL camp after coming from a small Division I school.

So what does such a whirlwind of a practice entail? Well, for starters, a lot of different foot placement.

"There's just a lot going through your head," Forbes explained after practice Wednesday. "The type of set you're going to take is different at guard. Not gonna lie, it was pretty difficult for me the first day I'd done it. It is a different mindset, you're in that phone booth style of play, but I enjoy the challenge. I like that they felt they could do that with me.

"You're kind of more shored up close with the guard position. Tackle, you'd have to drop your back foot a little bit more so you can kick out quicker for pass protection and whatnot."

Sometimes, Forbes goes from playing left tackle on one play to right guard on the very next play. It's essentially like being right-handed and driving with your right foot, and then being forced to write with your left hand while also pressing the accelerator with your left foot -- on the Autobahn.

"Let's say you're doing a right guard rep and all of the sudden you're at tackle," Forbes said. "I've caught myself in the wrong mentality where I'm wanting to jump set a guy versus go kick out and be patient. I'm seeing that more now and I think I'm learning every day."

Jump setting is establishing more of a firm base, whereas kicking out is in line with a more traditional pass drop. Basically, Forbes is deciding between dropping and setting quickly versus kick-sliding backward to beat his man to a point on the field. One will not work in place of the other, depending on which position he's playing, meaning he always has to be mentally sharp and aware of which position he's playing.

He also needs to remember the play. And the down and distance. And the snap count.

We haven't even included the variable elements surrounding him, such as teammates. Each plays with a bit of a different feel, and it's difficult to establish a rapport when Forbes is essentially cycling through teammates like he's trying to find a good song while his entire music library has been shuffled.

"Today I played next to (Bryan) Witzmann," Forbes said Wednesday. "Hadn't played next to him yet. That was a great experience, just getting to go and have that (chemistry) between different guys you get to play alongside."

That chemistry becomes stronger over time. Watch Joel Bitonio and JC Tretter play off each other while in pass protection. They're an excellent example of a relationship between two interior linemen that has been forged and tested by many different external forces.

Forbes and Witzmann? Not so much.

The key, then, is to play fast and be able to adjust on the fly. Forbes has been tested many times in this department.

"You're gonna have different timing," he explained. "I got a few plays in with Kendall Lamm while he was at right tackle. That is gonna be a different feel of a double team, vertical double team or let's say it's to the backside (line)backer, it's gonna be a little bit different with him, the timing and how he's gonna get there versus a guy like (Witzmann)."

Check out photos from the seventh day of Browns Camp by team photographer Matt Starkey

There, Forbes is explaining the difference in how two linemen double team one opponent, with the goal of one of the linemen breaking off to block someone else, depending on where the initial opponent ends up. If more of the opponent is within the grasp of Lamm, Forbes will break off to second level to take on the aforementioned linebacker. If not, Lamm will break off while Forbes will maintain the block of the intial opponent.

Much of this has to do with feel and familiarity, which can only be cultivated over time and countless repetitions. Forbes doesn't have that luxury, so instead, he's focusing on being quicker than his opponent. He knows his powerful, violent side can help him finish the job from there.

"The first two steps are the biggest part of this game," Forbes explained. ... "Like in college, I could get away with -- I don't want to call it losing off the ball -- but I could get off the ball slower. It was almost part of my game to get off the ball a little slow at tackle, make them go outside and make them try to go through me at the end. Now, you have such fast, quick get-off guys on the edge. Even on the interior, like a wide 3, you have to get off as soon as you can. You have to use that snap count as a weapon."

Forbes will continue to attempt to use the snap count as a weapon, so long as he can remember it after switching positions yet again before hearing the latest play call. He's handling it well so far, and he has some good role models in the locker room.

"You listen to everything they say," Forbes said of his veteran teammates. "They know how to be professionals. They know how to carry themselves. They know what they do day in and day out. You just kind of watch that, watch what they eat and watch just how they carry themselves. It really helps us rookies develop and I think develop quickly."

They'll have to develop quickly. In the lightning-fast NFL, there's no time to wait for someone to catch up.

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