Thursday, December 22, 2016

How Bad is the Browns Offensive Line for 2017

The Fat Kids have killed the team all year long.

     I've been complaining about the Browns' Offensive Line all year long, as they've been trying to kill all of our quarterbacks.   To recapitulate, Cody Kessler has been knocked out of games twice, Josh McCown missed time with a broken collarbone, Robert Griffin III had a broken bone in his shoulder, and Charley Whitehurst was released with an injury settlement.  In addition the Browns lead the NFL in sacks allowed and hits allowed on the quarterback. It's one of the most disgraceful performances in NFL history, frankly.  

Many analysts believe the Browns need to nuke the line, blow it up and start over.  But I don't think so.  Next year, we hope for a healthy Joel Bitonio, John Greco, and Austin Reiter.  Joel is an up and coming star and threat to make the Pro Bowl, Greco has been a reliable and underrated guard, and Austin Reiter outplayed Cameron Erving however briefly before going on IR with a knee injury.  

No doubt the guys we are playing now are terrible.  But almost all linemen will improve greatly between Year 1 and Year 2.  I don't know whether late round draft picks like Shon Coleman and Spencer Drango will be good, but I do know that they will be better than in 2016.  It's just a fact that most rookies need time to understand the intricacies of their position, and they are still getting stronger at age 21 or 22. No way are they at their peak.  

In that regard, Cameron Erving has been terrible.  But to my eye, he's been getting better.  Not good, but better.   And if you look at his history, he switched from defense to offense only in his sophomore year, and then played one year at tackle and switched to center.  He had very little experience and then messed up by insisting he could play all five positions.   Let's be clear.  I don't blame a 22 year old kid for thinking he could do it.  I do blame the Browns coaching staff for not giving him one position to learn.   I want to see how he does in 2017 before going ape.  As other options, we still have John Greco and Austin Reiter.  

I don't think that Austin Pasztor is the stud road grader that we need at Right Tackle. He's a free agent this year for 2017, along with former first round pick Jonathan Cooper.    I would definitely seek a new starter, either via Free Agency or in the draft.   But I might be receptive to bring Pasztor back if he's willing to sign for a modest contract.  I think he played well at guard as a substitute starter in 2015.  I think Pasztor could be moved to right guard to compete with Greco for a job. We'll find out about Cooper too in the remaining games of 2016.  

Some people talk about moving Joe Thomas but that is crazy talk.  Leave the Hall of Famer alone.  He ain't broke, so please don't fix him.  

So, I think we are okay at  four spots with Thomas, Bitonio, Erving and Greco.  Backups are  Reiter, Spencer Drango, Shon Coleman and depending on free agency, Jonathan Cooper and Pasztor. We still badly need a legit right tackle, and probably a developmental guy who can be a backup tackle.  I think you can count on the guys on the  bench being better (not good, but better) than 2016.  

Shon Coleman has had a chance to start, but will have to improve to be first string next year.  

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