It remains unclear who will be Joe Thomas’ heir at left tackle, but the Browns are giving Shon Coleman the first crack at it.
Coleman, the third-year offensive lineman and third-round pick in 2016, worked with Cleveland's first-team offense as offseason workouts came a close.
“He is leading the charge,” offensive line coach Bob Wylie said last week.
That, however, doesn’t mean the job is Coleman’s to lose. Not by any stretch. Instead, the Browns will mix and match a host of candidates — including right tackle Chris Hubbard and versatile rookie Austin Corbett — at the position in order to field the best possible unit in the fall.
For Coleman, who started all 16 games at right tackle last year, the move to the left side is like a right-handed golfer playing with his left. “People don’t understand that, except the guys that are really playing,” Wylie said.
“When you have your right hand on the ground, you’re using this side of your body most of the time. Now all of a sudden, they’re taking you and moving you over to the left side. Now, you have to switch your feet and everything has to move over. That just doesn’t happen overnight. It’s going to take a while.”
Coleman was part of an offensive line that lost Thomas, the 10-time Pro Bowler, midseason to a triceps injury in 2017. The future Hall-of-Famer and Browns legend retired this past March, leaving a vacancy at left tackle for the first time in more than a decade. Around the same time, Cleveland signed Hubbard, the former Steelers standout, in free agency to play right tackle and moved Coleman over to the left.
Though a work in progress, offensive coordinator Todd Haley said he’s been pleased by Coleman’s development throughout the spring. “I’ve been encouraged with the growth of Shon. We do have a Plan B, Plan C and potentially a Plan D that we don’t even know about,” he said. “Those guys up front have really done a good job of developing, understanding the protection schemes the blocking schemes, working together. Especially in that front line group, you have seen every good growth. We won’t answer all of the questions until we get the pads on and really see what we have.”
That, of course, includes Coleman, whose athleticism and size give him a chance at long-term success. What he needs to work on, Wylie said, is his footwork and certain techniques. “He has the athleticism,” Wylie said. “We need to keep working on the fundamentals and that stuff. "
The Browns believe Coleman will give himself a chance come training camp.
“We haven't played a game with him over there. Shon has done a good job. Shon has worked extremely hard," head coach Hue Jackson said. "He deserves the right to have this opportunity to see if he can be the left tackle. We'll know more about that once the pads come on and it's an everyday get after it session.