Offensive Line gives Cleveland reason for optimism in 2012

If the Browns are to turn things around next season- and that’s a big if– a number of improvements have to be made on the offensive side of the ball and it starts on the line.

The good news, if you are a Browns fan, is that there appears to be reason for optimism.

We have a few known variables- such as Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas. Even if you don’t think Thomas played at a Pro Bowl level last year, he is still in the top five in the league. He has been very durable throughout his career, starting and finishing all 80 games the Browns have played since drafting him. There may even be reason to believe the Browns have some depth in case the unthinkable happens and Thomas goes down.

The Browns decided to cut Eric Steinbach in what really amounted to a cost-efficiency move. They feel Jason Pinkston can do the job there for a lot less money. There was talk that the Browns may decide to bring Steinbach back at a reduced salary. As of now, Steinbach has not signed with any other team. Given what the Browns did in the draft to improve the line, and the improvement they are expecting from Jason Pinkston, I’m fairly certain Steinbach won’t be returning.

The center position will again be manned by Alex Mack, who is an above average center. Yes, he had a Pro Bowl appearance as an injury replacement. The AFC North has a few excellent centers. Mack might not be the best center in our own division, but what difference does that make anyway. He is a plug ’em in and forget ’em type of player.

Now we move to the right side of the line.

Before the draft, the Browns resigned Oniel Cousins and John Greco. This move made me nervous that the Browns may not address the offensive line until late in the draft, and that we would be stuck again with a black hole on the right side. Fortunately I was wrong. The Browns added Mitchell Schwartz in the second round and Ryan Miller in the fifth.

Schwartz will be expected to win the right tackle spot. Early second round picks should be good enough to step in and start right away on the offensive line. Take a look at his bio from Cal

“Started all 51 games possible during his Cal career from 2008-11 to fall one start short of Syd’Quan Thompson’s school record of 52, making the starts at either left tackle (35) or right tackle (16) … earned first-team All-Pac-12 and Pac-12 All-Academic in his senior season … also named second-team All-Pac-10 as a junior and was an honorable mention choice in his sophomore campaign … named honorable mention Pac-10 All-Academic (2008-10) and earned the Brick Muller Award as Cal’s Most Valuable Offensive Lineman (2009-11) for three seasons each.

2011: Earned first-team All-Pac-12 honors after starting all 13 games at left tackle, marking the fourth consecutive season of starting every one of the team’s contests … anchored an offensive line that blocked for first-year starting tailback Isi Sofele, who posted the sixth-highest rushing total in school history with 1,322 yards … added first-team All-Pac-12 selections from the ESPN Pac-12 Blog and Phil Steele, and was a second-team pick of College Sports Madness and Yahoo! Sports … picked up the team’s Brick Muller Award as Cal’s Most Valuable Offensive Lineman for the third straight campaign … also won a Cort Majors Captains Award on offense … a second-team midseason All-Pac-12 selection of Phil Steele … a third-team preseason All-American by and Sporting News … a candidate for national honors who was on watch lists for the Outland Trophy and Rotary Lombardi Award … named by Phil Steele as the nation’s No. 24 draft-eligible tackle prior to the campaign … a first-team All-Pac-10 preseason choice of Athlon, Steele and Sporting News, while Lindy’s had him as one of Cal’s “Players to Watch” and a second-team preseason All-Pac-10 pick.”

Durability, and some experience playing the right side. There are some great videos of Schwartz on Youtube, take a look at this one from Cal’s game against Stanford if you have some time. Particularly at the 3:15 mark. (He is #72, playing left tackle.) The Browns loved him, and there is nothing I see or read that tells me he won’t be the answer at right tackle.

Shawn Lauvao started at the right guard spot last season. After a rough beginning of the season, he showed definite improvement by the end of the year, especially in run blocking. But the Browns will have options at that spot. Ryan Miller has the physical make-up of a tackle, yet played guard in college. I’d be very surprised if the fifth rounder was ready at the start of the season and won the job. Most linemen taken that late are projects, but many do eventually contribute. I would also have a hard time imagining the Browns starting two rookies on the right side in week one.

So, if the starting unit is Thomas, Pinkston, Mack, Lauvao, and Schwartz from left to right I think that has the potential to be a very good unit. Greco or Cousins could potentially steal the job at right guard. Then again either could also be cut (Cousins imo). One or both would give the Browns some experience on the second unit.

The Browns also added a few undrafted players this weekend that have a legitimate shot of making the team. Not only does he have the name that all Browns fans can appreciate, but Matt Cleveland was a 3 year starter at left tackle for Idaho. Akron natives can root for Jake Anderson, a 6’6″ guard from the Zips with impressive strength. Center Garth Gerhart from Arizona State will try to make the team as a back-up to Alex Mack. And of course there is J.B. Shugarts.

This line is a big improvement on paper from last year’s version. Let’s hope it transitions to real life.

  • Chucky Brown

    …and of course there is j.b. shugarts


  • BenRM

    I think (hope) that Schwartz will have an immediate positive impact. And I also think (hope) there will be corresponding t-shirts.

  • RyInCbus

    Agreed.  I love the Schwartz pickup.  He’s a mauler than can run-block and open big holes for Trent to run all day.  Not as sound as a pass blocker but I imagine, on passing downs, Trent will line up to the right side to keep anyone who comes through off Weeden.  People want to argue that we should’ve taken a WR at the #37 spot, but if you just invested the #3 overall pick on a running back, it makes all the sense in the world to give him someone to run behind.  No WR would benefit our running game with Trent the way a road grater Right Tackle will.  And Schwartz was arguably the best Right Tackle prospect in this year’s draft.  Most of the other guys are Left tackles that would have to switch sides, which is easier said than done.  And before anyone blasts me by saying Schwartz was a Left Tackle, take a look at the tape and tell me what arm his QB threw the ball with.

  • Harv 21

    Since linemen always get hurt, don’t understand why we wouldn’t try hard to sign Steinbach and if he’s not fully recovered or has slipped some at least he’s quality depth as the starters start getting dinged up. After back surgery and at his age he probably can’t expect huge money from anyone.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    I’m a little worried about the injury history with Schwartz… if there’s one thing the Browns don’t need, it’s another right tackle who can’t stay healthy.  With that said, he looked absolutely dominant in that video both in run blocking and surprisingly in pass protection.  If that’s the guy we’re getting, we can count on some gaping holes for Richardson to run through and we can count on him to protect Weeden at at least an average level.  I know Standford didn’t really have any particularly good defensive linemen though.

  • Our Schwartz is bigger than yours?

  • mgbode

    I really like the make-up of this OL.  All young guys (Joe Thomas is the wily veteran of the group) and all are certainly capable.   Don’t be surprised to see an all-out competition at OG as they did allow Pinkston to compete/win the LG slot (after Steinbach injury).

    Greco is the backup OC, right?

    Gotta love that our OL and DL have been rebuilt over the past couple of years.  Really hope to see results from it this season.

  •  Well, despite being banged up at times, he never missed a game at Cal. I’ll take that.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Wow really?  I just assumed since I heard talk about his back from a bunch of sources that he had missed some time… that’s actually pretty impressive to not miss any games at all.

  • floydrubino

    It’s not rocket science. The o-line is what makes people good or not good. If our o-line isn’t one of the best in the leagues then we most likely will not have success unless we have Aaron Rodgers as our starting quarterback and even then why not get a great line to preserve him. If Schwartz and Miller don’t work out and become at least in the top 12 at their position in the league then the management has failed us once again. We need a dominant line and all of a sudden we will succeed because look at teams that have a bad o-line that have the great skill players. Once the playoffs hit you win ugly just like in the nba playoffs. It becomes more of a half court or trench game. They did the correct thing in spending picks to address both offensive and defensive lines because that’s what gets you to succeed is trench players. If Scwartz and Miller aren’t great and Decastro, Adams and Osemele are then that’s why we stink as a franchise is because we miss out on these picks.

  • Yup

    Again, this is all about the QB! Pittsburgh won 12 games with a terrible and/or banged up line! But keep kidding yourselves that building the O-line is the answer…

  • MadHat

    You win in the trenches.  Pretty much a well known fact.  BTW I watched the video of Weeden at Grudens QB camp and the guy is going to be good if we can keep him upright.

  • Hermie13

    Yet Pittsburghs first 2 picks this year were OL…

    Drafted a center top 20 two years ago too….

  • mgbode

    spending a 2nd rounder and a 5th on the OL is right in line with what we needed to do.

    a 3rd and 7th sounds about right for DL depth as well.  I’m glad we did it (now hopefully the players pan out)

  • mgbode

    next time you watch Ben do a count before he gets pressure.  alot of times he had plenty of time but always seems to be “waiting” to make that big play.

    I am curious to see how their OL performs after their current rebuild especially considering that their top RB is still ACL-recovering Mendenhall

  • Markn95

    I really like this unit, especially the youth.  Hopefully, they will grow and gel together and we won’t have to draft an O-lineman before the 6th round for a couple years.

    For all the talk about how rule changes have made the NFL a pass happy league and teams now have to draft QB’s. WR’s, and CB’s to compete, I’d still like to believe that building a team from the lines out is the name of the game.  If so, then this draft has set us up well.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    It’s incredible that their offense did as well as it did considering but alot of that credit belongs to Big Ben.  If you remember though Roethlesberger got hurt ironically against the Browns too.  Pittsburgh improved the line in the draft so if they can find a RB they’ll be right there again.

  • mgbode

    yes, Ben and Mendenhall both got hurt against the Browns.  we pretty much set Tim Tebow up in the playoffs.  not that it helped him keep his job though.

  • Yup

    Good like Drew Henson? Waiting for someone to mention that no over 25 QB who did the baseball thing has had a successful NFL career. Maybe Weedon is the first but history ain’t on his side…

  • Yup

    That’s my point. A good/great QB makes EVERYTHING better.

  • Yup

    That’s my point. A good/great QB makes EVERYTHING better.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Well of course they touch the ball more then any other player except the center.

    We’ll see on Mr. Weeden personally right now I don’t like him being taken in round 1 not when other areas could have been improved first.  It’s over though now we have to go forward.  I wanna see what he does when he can’t just sit in shotgun and play pass/catch with dump offs and short routes.  Any professional QB can be accurate when all he has to do is drop back and throw.  I think his accuracy #s fell off alot when he was forced to run.  So that OL better be good.

  • Wait… just said ‘since linemen always get hurt’ then went on to basically say ‘lets sign a lineman (Steinbach) who just missed a whole season after having back surgery– one of the hardest injuries to ever come back from.’

    Talk about contradictory. You need HEALTH with your depth guys not massive injuries waiting to happen.

  • His back surgery was just to ‘clean things up,’ or so i hear. I’m assuming it was a nagging minor injury that needed to be taken care of. The media hears ‘back surgery’ and like to make the worst of things. Obviously, his track record at Cal speaks for itself.

  • Did you read that in a draft book or watch Mel Kiper or did you watch extensive video of Brandon Weeden?

    I’ll stick with the Walrus and staff on evaluating QB’s and not you.

    Love your negativity. You haven’t had one positive post. Your life must be absolutely miserable.

  • Yup

    Oh, ya mean the guy who picked McCoy? I am it negative; typical response from a homer. I use facts and evidence when I look at things and no RB wins you games much less super bowls. And no 25year plus minor-league-baseball playing QB has had a successful NFl career in the last decade. These are historical facts. What evidence do you have that the Walrus is a good talent evaluator? His record as a GM in Seattle certainly would not. He was a fine coach. Period. Nothing more. And he has compounded the years until the Browns are serious contenders by not getting the franchise QB you must have. Y’all can make all the excuses you like about why he didn’t get the RG 3 pick but he failed. Period. So now we hope a guy who’s profile indicates he will not be successful in the league will be the franchise QB. Yeah, great job, Walrus…

  • mgbode

    correlation and causation are different things.

    “no 25year plus minor-league-baseball playing QB has had a successful NFl career in the last decade.”

    Weinke, Henson, now Weeden, right?  That’s a bit of a small sample size and Weeden was the only one deemed worthy a 1st round selection.  No 25+yo minor league baseball playing QB selected in the 1st round has ever failed to my knowledge 🙂

  • mgbode

    “no RB wins you games much less super bowls”

    yeah, having Ray Rice or Frank Gore is the same as having Ogbannya as your starting RB.  why even draft one?

    having talented players in place all over the field makes everything easier.  a talented RB can make an OLs and QBs job easier.  a talented OL can make the QBs and RBs job easier.  a talented WR makes the QBs job easier, etc.

  • not for nothing but it appears that positive pre-draft reports (from the player’s PR department no less) are alright as long as theyre favorable?

    AHHHHHHHHH… just funnin ya rick.  🙂

    two things about the schwartz pick:
    1. they brought him and also the players they passed on (adams, glenn, silotalu, martin) and chose him. cant argue with that after having had face to face meetings with all the candidates.
    2. RT makes RG better which makes C better which makes RG better which makes LT better. #winwinwinwinwin

  • Kildawg

    The Schwartz is with us… Btw, get him #72 if at all possible, think it’s available. Reason: he might be the guy to truly replace Ryan Tucker.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Ya know I’ve ignored your other comments but frankly it’s getting old.  Instead of attacking me for my opinion try sticking to the topic at hand.  Maybe you can discuss it with someone else like what I was attempting to do here before you stuck your nose in, again!

  • Yup

    Chad Hutchinson. Call it what you will. They have not panned out. Not once.

  • Yup

    Where we rice and gore drafted? Again, I deliver the facts. The giants won the SB finishing last in rushing. The RB’s who lead the league in rushing year after year are drafted out of the top10. The only 2 things that truly matter are getting a stellar QB and getting stellar QB rushers. Everything else is gravy. When the Browns messed up on RG3 they should have immediately looked for ways to trade down and get the best passers possible. You win by having a great QB and sacking/hurrying the QB.


    Pinkston’s been working with LeCharles Bentley this offseason so here’s to hoping we see huge improvements in his game.  You don’t really need stars at every position on the line, and I think Lauvao is solid enough to hold down RG.  Although Ryan Miller has the potential to become a real beast on the line.  Schwartz is going to be the answer for RT for years.  So now, not only should we have a very strong (top 10, maybe top 5) o-line, but they are all YOUNG.

  • porckchopexpress

    Here’s a pretty amazing one for you.  Did you know that not one single Baylor QB in the past has had a significant NFL career?  There’ve been Baylor QBs to go, but their careers have pretty much been backups and journeymen.  Can you believe that? 
    Too bad you weren’t around to provide your Foolproved method of determing talent when Washington wasted all those picks on RG3.  I mean without your immense insight those silly Redskins probably relied on evaluating the talent of the player they were considering taking rather than looking for some loose corrolary relationship to decide whether to take him or not.  Yup, must be real idiots.

  • Fenstemakeram08

    When they drafted Weedon getting the best RT became a priority…Weedon would absolutely fail given the line Mccoy had last year based upon how he struggled and threw picks under pressure in collge…Weedon does have a better arm then Mccoy and we have set him up for success with the RT and RB…smart. Go Browns!

  • 5KMD

    For what it is worth, Henson played football in college, then went to baseball, and then came back to football. He doesn’t really apply here since Weeden played his college ball after his baseball years.

  • 5KMD

    Actually, I hope one day the Browns can go into a draft without any major holes so they can truly start drafting BPA everytime.

  • 5KMD

    “The AFC North has a few excellent centers. Mack might not be the best center in our own division, but what difference does that make anyway.”

    Come on, don’t hedge like that. This is a Cleveland site, you don’t have to contribute to the media bias that all steelers are hall of famers. Mack played with appendicitis, Pouncey missed time with a sprained ankle.

  • Harv 21

    obviously I meant if he’s healthy. A lot of football players come back from herniated disc surgery, he is medically cleared for all football-related activity, he’s been durable and he’s a real good lineman. Can’t think who would provide better depth. The bigger problem I would think is he wants to be a starter and get starter money. If he’s not signed before camp someone’s gonna grab him when players start dropping in pre-season.

  • Eric G

    They took McCoy in the 3rd round, not first overall! And I’d say he’s played like a 3rd rounder to this point. How about we all relax a little

  • Wuga

     Then it’s a good thing that Heckert is the main talent evaluator and the person primarily running the draft. He has a great record with Philly and now with Cleveland (can you say Sheard and Little both in the 20 best rookies camp from 2011 even though they were taken at 37 and 59 – that’s awesome!).

  • Steve-o

    We shouldn’t complain about taking lineman early. Nothing works well on either side of the ball unless the lines are doing their jobs. All of our past rebuilds failed in this critical area, but the current regime gets it.

    It wouldn’t be that much of a surprise if Miller takes over at RG. He’s bigger and more physical than his competition there, which could be the difference assuming our offense is run oriented.

  • Ritz

    Explain how the Steelers have been good with a horrible line and how the Packers won the super bowl with the oline that was the worst in football at giving up sacks.

  • Jaker

    Lovin this right now. If Steinbach doesn’t have any offers, bring him back

  • parakeet_petey

    I hear where you are coming from with the QB. Totally important. But in order for a rookie…even a 28 year old one…to have success, they will need time to throw the ball.  When Big Ben came into the league he had a good offensive line.  Good running game that helped up, and a D. Then he developed into a superstar and can get away with more (because he knows the game better) as a veteran.  What about David Carr? What about Tim Couch? Neither had time to throw the ball…or were they holding the ball too long?  What goes into a good QB?  You have to have the right coaching and scheme and players in place for the QB you bring in.  Having a line block for your QB isn’t a bad thing and can only help in a rookie’s success.

    When you evaluated the sacks given up by the Steelers and Packers, were they given up by the line? Or where they scheme sacks on blitzes where there were not enough guys to block? Was it as mgbode indicated and they were waiting for the big play?

    I guess my point is you have to start building somewhere around your QB, and the Line is a good place to start.  You give any QB all day to throw, he’ll beat ya.

  • OK

    I could read YUPs idiocity all day. My favorite was ” only QB’s and pass rushers matter, everything else is gravy”…PRICELESS! Anyone to stupid to recognize the importance of every position on the field should be banned from expressing their football opinions publicly.