In an offseason filled with plenty of additions and upgrades, the Cleveland Browns have done their best to improve on last season’s 1-15 season. Wanting to get out of the cellar of the NFL, they may still be one of the worst teams in the league in 2017, but they are in a better position this year than last. Whether it’s through the draft or free agency, they have definitely improved, but by how much? While the additions of guys like Myles Garrett and Jason McCourty, among others, could be quite an improvement going forward, the improvements on the offensive line will most likely be the group that shows an immediate impact. Signing both center JC Tretter and right guard Kevin Zeitler.
With those additions, along with future Hall of Fame left tackle Joe Thomas, the 27th-best player in the NFL in 2017, left guard Joel Bitonio, and potential right tackle Shon Coleman, the Browns have the second-best offensive line in the league, according to Pro Football Focus’ Michael Renner.
2. Cleveland Browns
The offseason free agent spending spree could pay off huge dividends in Cleveland. J.C. Tretter and Kevin Zeitler both bring well above-average grades from a season ago at center and guard, respectively. The only question mark comes at right tackle where Shon Coleman looked at least competent in his 62 snaps as a rookie.
No matter who starts behind center come Week 1, they are guaranteed to have a much better offensive line in 2017 than the team had in 2016. You could even argue that the Browns’ current front is the best they’ve had since 1999. Even though they haven’t found their franchise quarterback yet, the offensive line’s potential dominance could make whoever the quarterback is look much better. It truly is amazing just how much more time in the pocket means for a gunslinger. Here’s a quick look at the Browns’ starters across the offensive line this season, with Shon Coleman being the only starter in question.
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) May 18, 2017
After the previous regime didn’t prioritize the offensive line and lost guys like Alex Mack and Mitchell Schwartz, it’s obvious that Sashi Brown and company believe that shouldn’t be the case. Controlling the line of scrimmage is one of the most important aspects in football, and the front office has done a tremendous job in addressing both sides of their line this offseason.
While the Browns are still in search of a quarterback, a search that has been in place since 1999, a good offensive line can cover up a lot of weaknesses on an offense, along with making an offense much better as well. The Dallas Cowboys have plenty of talent all over the field, but their offensive line’s greatness in 2016 can’t go unnoticed. While rookies like quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott were (and are) very talented, the offensive line’s dominance is part of the reason why they were both Pro Bowlers in 2016.
Cleveland may still have plenty of holes, but securing the offensive line is a huge step in the right direction. Kudos to Sashi and the rest of the front office who (finally) decided that dominating the line of scrimmage is very important.
For those curious, here’s where the rest of the teams in the AFC North rank:
- 3. Pittsburgh Steelers
- 23. Baltimore Ravens
- 31. Cincinnati Bengals