Let me begin by saying I do not live in Cleveland and I do not get to see the Browns play often, so my opinions should be taken with a grain of salt. The ideas I'm about to share are based off of the few games I've been able to see this past season or two. Now... on to the actual post.
The Browns front office is known for some controversial maneuvers. Some of which were the early parts of the 2012 NFL Draft. From being the only team in years to pick an RB in the Top 3, to picking a potential 2nd rounder with our second pick while a lot of potential talent was still available, to selecting Mitchell Schwartz over guys like Cordy Glenn and Amini Silatolu.
Most of it resorts back to selecting Brandon Weeden over incredible guard prospect David DeCastro (who went to the dreaded Pittsburgh Steelers), and picking later round (or at least not as good) prospect Mitchell Schwartz over mauler Cordy Glenn and a guard with massive potential Amini Silatolu.
The Browns coaching staff keeps insisting that Jason Pinkston has "potential". But various things (notably ProFootballFocus) seem to think he's honestly not that good. Even us fans can agree he's probably a bit (or a really big bit) of a weak point on this line. And the fact that we passed up on David DeCastro, Kevin Zeitler, Cordy Glenn and Amini Silatolu means they see something in him that we don't. So... it's all up to trust.
Know what? I think I'm just gonna do a breakdown of the whole line.
LT: Joe Thomas.
What's to be said here? He is the left tackle of the NFL. He's prototypical size, strength, athleticism, and skillset of the best LT in the league. He's the best pass-blocking LT in the league and though his run-blocking may have fallen off a bit, he's still one of the best offensive linemen in the league. As a rookie he was probably the most important part of a damn good 2007 Browns team, and was dynamic in the success of Derek Anderson and Jamal Lewis that year. The LT spot it locked down for years.
LG: Jason Pinkston.
I've already given my schpiel about Pinkston. He flashes potential occasionally. He's just raw. He's big, strong, and an ok athlete. He just needs to use his hands and feet better, and maybe develop a real mean streak. Let's see if he becomes the player everyone felt they should pass up on everyone for.
C: Alex Mack.
Mack is the poster child for power centers (Folks over at Arrowhead Pride call him Grunny, in reference to former Chiefs great Tim Grunhard). He's big, strong, and boy is he brutish. There's not a lot of centers in this league who can go toe-to-toe with the defensive tackles of the AFC North, and Mack is one of them. Not only does he handle them, he can destroy them. It's not an uncommon sight to see Mack explode off the line of scrimmage and bury a defender. He was another controversial pick as many thought Rey Maualuga should've been the pick here, but I think the Browns made the right choice.
RG: Shawn Lavauo.
Shawn's a guy who I really like. He's the definition of a mauler. His feet may be a bit slow in the passing game, but he's a behemoth in the run game. He's huge, he's one of the strongest guys on the team (and around the league), and 1-on-1 against most defenders in this league in a straight ahead, drive blocking scenario and he wins 8 of 10 times. He's one of the guys on this line that really has a finishing attitude and wants to take his defender and grind him into the dirt. Let's see how he does next year.
RT: Mitchell Schwartz.
Mitchell was a controversial pick. It was universally thought that Cordy Glenn was a much better RT prospect. But we can't complain, as he's a pretty damn good tackle. He's a technician, is tough, and is a decent athlete for the position. He can run and pass block. While I'll admit that I wanted Glenn, I've warmed up to Schwartz. Tony Pashos wasn't great in 2011, especially in the running game (surprising, as just a few years ago he was THE BEST run-blocker in the league). Mitchell looks as qualified as anyone to take over here.
The AFC North is a physical division. You don't win in this division without a GREAT line on both sides of the ball. The D-line is looking up, and this offensive unit has lots of potential. Run-blocking wise, I think it could be very good. It's the 9th biggest line in the league. Lauvao, Mack, Schwartz and even Pinkston are all hammers in the run game, and as long as ol' #73 can return to being the kind of guy who can drive back two guys at one time beastly Trent Richardson will have some massive rushing lanes, which will open up Weeden to have some great passing opportunities, and there will be a lot of bruised and battered Steelers, Ravens and Bengals defenders who will be in tears because the Browns just stole the division from them.
It's been a while since I've really thought the Browns could do something great, but I'm almost there. The defense is elite and only getting better. We got a big, physical runner in T-Rich, a electrifying QB in Weeden, and a mammoth O-line paving the way. Now all we need is a true #1 receiver and I'm sold.