The moment the Cleveland Browns moved Joel Bitonio from left guard to left tackle revealed that the team ran out of options and had to use Plan Z to sure up their offensive line, at least to the best of their ability. Even though it was their last option, it doesn’t mean that the transition won’t work. Many believe that moving Bitonio to left tackle will allow the Browns to maximize the talent on their offensive line.
Although we won’t know if moving the 26-year-old one spot over on the offensive line will benefit both Bitonio and the team, he seems to be doing well with the switch during the first couple training camp practices at his new position.
“I think he fits out there,” second-year defensive end Myles Garrett said of Bitonio. “I do not think that the change has made him any less of a great player. I think he can go out there and handle any of the top rushers.”
If anyone would know, it’s Garrett, who will line up against Bitonio throughout much training camp. Considering it’s a brand new position for the fifth-year offensive lineman, who has spent his first 47 games of his career at left guard, it will take some getting used to and fully grasp. Luckily, Bitonio played left tackle at times throughout his time at Nevada, but at the NFL level, it’s quite a difference between left tackle and left guard, even though they’re right next to one another on the line. There’s a reason why elite left tackles, such as Joe Thomas, are so sought after.
Garrett has already stated that as a young, elite defensive end, he will do everything he possibly can to make things difficult for Bitonio during the preseason, helping him develop as a left tackle. The more the new left tackle can learn during training camp, the easier the transition will be once the season kicks off.
“I know he is going to be facing some quality rushers, and I know some of the best are coming pretty soon in the season,” Garrett said. “I know I am going to give him everything I have because if I do, I know he will be able to handle them. I do not think there is much of a difference between me and guys that are at the very top.”
We may not know how successful Bitonio can be as a left tackle, we do know that Shon Coleman, who was previously Plan A to replace Joe Thomas, was not the answer. Garrett commented on the differences between Coleman and Bitonio at left tackle as well.
“Different setters. They both have different body types so they use that to their advantage. They have different disadvantages. Joel is a little bit thicker so he kicks a little farther. Shon is a little bit lighter so he uses his long arms to maybe shorten his set and try to prevent himself from getting beat by the inside rush.”
We may not know Bitonio’s full potential as the team’s new left tackle until far into the regular season, but if a guy like Garrett is giving him some praise already, that has to mean something. Having to be the guy that replaces a future Hall of Fame left tackle isn’t easy, but so far, it appears that the Browns have plenty of faith that Bitonio can be successful as the team’s newest left tackle.