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Greg Robinson's return maintains continuity, pads depth, options along Browns O-line

If they want, the Browns can do something they haven't done in years when the 2019 season opens in September.

After Monday's re-signing of left tackle Greg Robinson, the Browns have their entire starting offensive line and backups slated to return for a season with elevated expectations. Robinson, the former No. 2 overall pick who resurrected his career in Cleveland, was the lone uncertainty in a group that is easily the most experienced position group, as a whole, on the entire team.

Perhaps most importantly for the Browns, this goes beyond stability for the sake of stability. Cleveland's offensive line, with Robinson starting at left tackle, was one of the best in the NFL over the second half of the season, as it simultaneously powered a productive rushing attack while protecting rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield.

Rookie running back Nick Chubb nearly cleared 1,000 yards despite not receiving regular carries until Week 7. Chubb picked up 678 of his 996 yards during the Browns' final eight games while averaging nearly 5 yards per carry.

Mayfield was sacked just five times and knocked down a handful of others over the Browns' final eight games. Cleveland led both of those categories by a long shot when compared to other teams during the second half of 2018.

"I think it was a combination of things," Pro Bowl left guard Joel Bitonio said at the end of the season. "I think the O-line stepped up and won more of the one on one battles. I think Baker improved as the season went on on getting the ball out and on getting us in the right play and throw the ball away when he had to instead of trying to take the chance every time. I think the running backs and tight ends did a better job of chipping. I think Freddie (Kitchens) called better plays. I think it was just a combination of everything. When you give up a bunch of sacks, it is not always the O-line's fault on everything, and when you protect all of the time, the credit does not always go all to the O-line. It was a group effort.

"I think our continuity as an O-line really improved as the weeks went on, as well."

The Browns had anything but that when last year's training camp opened.

Within the first few days, Shon Coleman proved incapable as the starter and Robinson was lost to a concussion. With rookie Desmond Harrison still recovering from an injury, the Browns had to shake things up in a big way by moving Bitonio to left tackle and rookie Austin Corbett into Bitonio's spot at left guard. Ultimately, Harrison, an undrafted rookie, recovered in time to win the starting job but he had very few practice snaps with his fellow first-teamers.

Harrison's first eight starts featured plenty of ups and downs customary with a rookie playing one of the most important positions on the field. A late-week illness, though, opened the door for Robinson, who quietly worked behind the scenes as the team's top backup option at both tackle positions. Robinson took the opportunity and ran with it in a way that wasn't seen with his previous two teams, starting the final eight games and seemingly improving with each one as he established the kind of chemistry and continuity with his teammates he couldn't while sidelined with a concussion during the preseason.

"I have always had confidence in my ability," Robinson said in late November. "I feel like at times I was given the short end of the [stick], but all I can do is show up each day continue to get better and work my butt off."

An even better version of Robinson combined with the return of Bitonio at left guard, JC Tretter at center, Kevin Zeitler at right guard and Chris Hubbard at right tackle bodes very well for a Browns offense that was as exciting and efficient as any in the league over the second half of 2018. Tack on some vital young depth in Corbett and Harrison, and the Browns are in a position, just a few weeks out from the start of the new league year, where they won't be looking to fill any major holes as they look to upgrade the roster through free agency and the draft.

It's a nice place to be with any position group. It's even nicer when it's with a unit that thrives so much off continuity and chemistry.