When Joel Bitonio began his rookie season as a left guard for the Browns in 2014, Austin Corbett was a walk-on at Nevada looking to play his way into the starting lineup.
Five years later, Corbett is hoping to accomplish the same thing with the Browns and play alongside Bitonio, who also attended Nevada and was the starting left tackle two years before Corbett played the position as a sophomore.
Corbett hasn’t won a starting position with the Browns yet. He began training camp in a rotation at right guard and has recently stayed put at second-team center, but Bitonio, the Browns’ de facto offensive line leader, believes Corbett will be ready for a call whenever — and wherever — it comes.
“I told (Corbett), ‘You’re a good football player. Have fun playing the game. Don’t stress about things,’” Bitonio said. “It’s the NFL, and you never know when it’s the time to get called. But just keep improving. Work on one thing every day. You can’t work on 10 different things because you’re not going to be able to prove everything and have fun with it.
Check out photos from the fourteenth day of Browns Camp by team photographer Matt Starkey
For Corbett, focusing on only one area to improve might seem a bit easier said than done. The Browns’ 2018 second-round draft selection played at the left side of the line for three of his four years at Nevada, but the Browns are anchored on the left with veterans Greg Robinson and Bitonio.
To crack the starting lineup, Corbett must play from center or the right side, where he hasn’t blocked since his junior year at Nevada. Corbett shuffled with Eric Kush and Kyle Kalis at right guard to begin camp and had even less experience at center before he started receiving reps at second-team center a week into camp. Kush has worked as the first-team right guard for the past week while Kalis has been out with multiple injuries.
Bitonio has liked what he’s seen from Corbett amid the jumbling. He knows how difficult it can be for a lineman to feel comfortable blocking from a new position or, for Corbett, a couple of new positions.
As a right guard, Corbett uses his right hand in his stance, takes his initial step with his left foot and braces with his right. That was all flipped when he played from the left side, and as a center, he has the pressure of safely snapping the ball before he begins his motion.
Bitonio has always worked from the left side while with the Browns. He’s never had to make such a drastic shift in technique and hopes he never has to, but the veteran has still been impressed with how Corbett has handled the movements from each position.
“I thought he did some really good things when he was playing center (last Thursday),” Bitonio said. “He made some good calls and had some good blocks. Keep working on that and keep developing that.”
The Browns’ coaching staff has ample time to decide where Corbett will fit best. Right now, at the minimum, he appears to be slated as a versatile backup capable of playing across the offensive line, and if the situation stays that way, Bitonio will view Corbett as quality depth.
And when Corbett does get the call, Bitonio won’t worry.
“He’s still on the right path and I know he’s just trying to improve on one thing every day,” Bitonio said. “He keeps working, and he knows he’s going to get a shot at one point.”