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Need to Know: Browns could retool offensive line before season opener

The Browns could be retooling offensive line once more as the season opener fast approaches.

Head coach Hue Jackson suggested Cleveland might change up the unit after moving veteran left guard Joel BItonio to left tackle earlier this month. 

"I think what I'm doing is as I said before, I want to look at everything and make sure the best five guys out there based on all of the information from preseason games, practices and what I think is best for our football team. I'm just evaluating it all," Jackson said Friday on a conference call following the team's 35-17 win over the Lions. "When it's all said and done, my job is that we put the best five guys out there, and that's what we are going to do."

The Browns moved Bitonio, a four-year starter at left guard, to left tackle toward the beginning of training camp to fill the void left by future Hall-of-Famer Joe Thomas, who retired in March following 11 seasons and 10 Pro Bowls. In Bitonio's place, Cleveland started rookie Austin Corbett, the 33rd overall pick in the draft. 

With a date against the Pittsburgh Steelers in nine days, Jackson said the Browns will take a long hard look at the group, including potentially moving Bitonio back to left guard and starting rookie Desmond Harrison, an undrafted free agent, at left tackle. Harrison started Thursday's preseason finale in Detroit after missing much of training camp with a toe injury. 

Jackson said he's comfortable reconfiguring the lineup so close to the start of the season 

"I feel pretty good about where we're headed. I think you guys are asking for concrete answers today, and I'm not ready to do that," he said. "I feel good about where we are, where we're headed and the players who we have playing there. I just want to make sure that we're not turning in the lineup cards today or to say who is starting or anything like that. I just want to make sure that it's a decision, when it's all said and done, that I'm good with it all and that I'm not going to change two days from now or three days from now."

— Josh Gordon will return to practice this week as the Browns prepare for Pittsburgh. Jackson said the star wide receiver will participate in as much as possible as he continues to nurse a minor hamstring injury. "I think it will be a little bit more than limited but not totally, totally full go," he said. "He'll definitely get into the route running part of it, catching balls and being with the offense a lot more than what he has been." Gordon returned to the team earlier this month after a leave of absence to focus on his recovery from addiction.

— In the coming days, the Browns will curate their roster from 90 members to 53. Thursday's night game against Detroit marked the final opportunity for players hoping to earn a spot on the team to impress Jackson and the front office. "Last night, I took the opportunity to thank all of our players that spent training camp with us. They all worked extremely hard and tried to do everything that we asked them to do," he said. "Unfortunately, there is only room for 53 on the roster and another 10 on the practice squad. That is just how it works in the National Football League." 

— Jackson said the Browns will have to make "tough decisions" when it comes to tight end Seth DeValve and fullback Danny Vitale, who have both missed substantial time with injuries. "We have to do what we think is best short term and long term for the organization," he said. "Those guys have been players who have played football here and contribute, but obviously, they haven't been out there on the field with the team and been able to practice. I think that availability is really important, especially as we start heading into the season." DeValve, who enters his third season with the team, caught 33 passes for 395 yards and a touchdown last year. Vitale has played in 24 games, starting nine, in two seasons.

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