When you go 1-15 in the NFL, the next year promises for some big changes for any franchise. The Cleveland Browns went about those changes on the offensive line with the additions to the interior with center J.C. Tretter and right guard Kevin Zietler and the mega extension for left guard Joel Bitonio. Couple those additions with the Pro Bowl talent of Joe Thomas at left tackle and that leaves only right tackle as a weak spot.
With his improved play down the stretch last year, Shon Coleman has the expected head start on the position from those that have seen him in training camp, especially given that veteran offensive lineman John Greco had to have surgery in the off season and is working his way back to health. So why has he been splitting time at left tackle when Joe Thomas is out, allowing former first-round pick Cam Erving to get the most snaps at right tackle?
It’s customary for the first few weeks to see multi-year veterans sitting out practices, saving those snaps for the regular season. Head coach Hue Jackson noted as much about vets such as Joe’s Thomas and Haden sitting out practices. He said “I have met with our medical team, and we have come up with a really good plan to make sure that we get our guys to practice, through practice and try to keep them as healthy as we can. There will be some days when it is every other day and some days when it is not every other day. We will work through it based on what we are doing because when we’re in pads, I want the guys out there.”
That being said, why have Shon Coleman move over to left tackle, a position he will more than likely not see for the next few years (remember Joe Thomas has not missed A SNAP since being drafted), when he needs to get the reps at right tackle? Hue addressed it thusly “He is getting enough. Yes, he is. He can play. He has done a good job, him and (OL) Cam (Erving) both. Those guys have done a really good job, and we have to find out if one of those guys can play left tackle for the future, too. I think they both have demonstrated that they can do it, and right now, I feel good about them both.”
Seems quite intriguing that they are looking into the future and seemingly preparing for life after Joe Thomas. Thomas has been rumored to be on the trading block for years, one of the few veterans that has incredibly high value around the league and would net a kings ransom in return. Are Jackson and the front office simply doing their due diligence and prepping for the possibility of Thomas retiring?
While both Jackson and offensive line coach Bob Wylie are non-committal on whether Coleman or Erving has the lead, the fact that they trust Coleman to audition first for the left tackle spot of the future might be enough of an endorsement for him starting on this team in 2017. As training camp goes deeper, Thomas will practice more, and the true test for the right tackle job will be given a better picture. My money is on Coleman, but Erving has been around the team longer and can’t be ruled out. He doesn’t have many more chances left1 and is seemingly a backup at this point. But, as with all things Browns, you never know until you know.
- he was horrendous at center [↩]