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Browns training camp preview: Offensive line

Jul 19, 2013 -- 6:00am

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/Getty

The Morning Kickoff …

Countdown to training camp: One in a series previewing the Browns’ roster leading up to the opening of training camp on July 25.

Position: Offensive line.

Quick overview: This is one of the few position groups on the team regarded as “better than average” going into training camp. It has talent at multiple positions, a nice blend of youth and experience, and has developed a momentum of continuity. This will not be a dominant group until it proves it can meet the challenge of seizing a game in the fourth quarter and not letting it go.

Projected keepers on final roster:  Nine.

Starters entering camp: 73 Joe Thomas (2013 salary cap number: $11.4 million), 77 John Greco (cap: $800,000), 55 Alex Mack (cap: $5.032 million), 66 Shawn Lauvao (cap: $1.497 million), 72 Mitchell Schwartz (cap: $1.176 million).

Others in camp (alphabetically): 63 Aaron Adams, 78 Dominic Alford, 79 Rashad Butler, 68 Braxston Cave, 75 Oniel Cousins, 70 Chris Faulk, 65 Garrett Gilkey, 61 Caylin Hauptmann, 60 Ryan Miller, 62 Jason Pinkston, 74 Jarrod Shaw, 64 Martin Wallace.

Key newcomers: Butler, signed as free agent (1 year/undisclosed); Faulk, signed as undrafted free agent from Louisiana State; Gilkey, drafted in 7th round from Chadron State.

Analysis: Thomas, Mack and Mitchell are symmetrical anchors at left tackle, center and right tackle, respectively. Any team in the NFL would love to have that. That leaves only the guard positions to sort out. Pinkston’s bout with a blood clot last year opened the door for versatile veteran Greco to start at left guard. Lauvao held down right tackle. At minicamp, coaches experimented with Lauvao and Greco and Pinkston rotating at both guard positions. The acquisition of Butler and the signing of Faulk seemed a direct assault at Cousins’ important role of top backup at tackle. This group is in great shape, but the demands in pass protection will be greater this year as coaches implement more seven-step quarterback drops to allow for longer pass routes to develop.

Don’t be surprised if: Greco wins the starting job at left guard and Lauvao and Pinkston compete at right guard. In addition to his savvy as a six-year vet, Greco has a little more mobility and ability to execute sweeps and pulls – a lost art on the line since Eric Steinbach was in his prime.

Key questions: 1. Can Pinkston not only regain his form after recovering from a blood clot but also elevate his game? 2. Can Miller (second year), Gilkey (rookie) and Faulk (rookie) make enough of an impact in training camp to secure regular roster positions?

Fun fact: Thomas has six Pro Bowl appearances in six seasons and has taken every snap in his 96 career games with the Browns. According to the Browns, only 15 players in NFL history have made the Pro Bowl in each of their first six seasons, and 13 are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. One is Jim Brown.

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@espncleveland.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

 

 

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