In Part 1 of our Cleveland Browns training camp preview on the offensive line, we looked at which players had starting roles locked up. In Part 2 of our preview, we take a look at the three-way competition that will be taking place at the offensive guard positions between John Greco, Shawn Lauvao, and Jason Pinkston.
4. JOHN GRECO - STARTING LEFT GUARD
Who hasn't jumped on the John Greco bandwagon this offseason? During his fifth year in the league in 2012, Greco started a career-high 10 games after starter Jason Pinkston developed a blood clot in his lung that kept him out the remainder of the season.
Greco took full advantage of his playing time to the point where I believe he is the favorite over both Lauvao and Pinkston to hold at least one of the starting guard positions (I am projecting left guard). Greco is seen as an average pass blocker, but he really excels in his run blocking ability.
One think I'm really excited about with Greco is the fact that 2012 was basically his "rookie year" in a sense, despite being in the league for awhile. In an interview with the Plain Dealer, he talked about improving his game:
Greco knows there's room for improvement in his game. He wants to become more proficient at finishing blocks and giving the second effort that helps turn a 4-yard run into a long gainer.
"I have been looking back and finding things I can correct, little things that if I had done better might have changed the play," Greco said. "It's a new year and I'm back to square one trying to help this team win."
During the offseason programs, head coach Rob Chudzinski has had Greco in with the first-team offensive line more often than the other two guards. It also has to help that offensive line coach George Warhop was one of the few assistant coaches to return -- he knows the type of impact Greco has last year.
Job Security: B-
Final Roster Odds: 100%
5. SHAWN LAUVAO - STARTING RIGHT GUARD
This is a big year and big training camp for Shawn Lauvao. If the younger talent on this team -- like Garrett Gilkey and Ryan Miller, among others -- perform well, I wouldn't be surprised to see Lauvao among the surprise cuts at the conclusion of training camp.
Earlier this offseason, I mentioned five players who could become cap casualties. The first of those three players are already long gone: Chris Gocong, Colt McCoy, and Usama Young. The fourth player on the list was Shawn Lauvao.
Cutting Lauvao would not be a huge cost-saver, but he is in the final year of his contract and has had his fair share of struggles as a starter the past two seasons. "Inconsistency" would be a word that describes him the best. Lauvao's performance in 2012 was one of the big reasons I heavily advocated that the Browns pursue a top offensive guard in free agency, which they ended up not doing.
For the moment, I am giving Lauvao the benefit of the doubt in the starting lineup, even if Terry Pluto isn't. He has started 32 straight games at right guard, and he has shown flashes of dominance -- I just wish that dominance would last longer than a couple of plays. If Lauvao ends up on the bench, I think Greco would move over to right guard.
Job Security: D-
Final Roster Odds: 80%
6. JASON PINKSTON - COMPETING FOR STARTING OFFENSIVE GUARD
After suffering a career-threatening blood clot in his lungs last season, Jason Pinkston returned to the football field for practice just a little over a month ago. At that time, Pinkston reported that he had gained about 12 pounds of unwanted weight and lost some endurance while he was sidelined, and that he was trying to get back to a weight around 318 pounds (note: the Browns' roster page lists him at 305 pounds, so go figure).
After a month of works, Pinkston may already be at his target weight. Still, it is that uncertainty that prevents me from naming him the favorite to be a starter over Lauvao heading into training camp. Between the three offensive guards, Pinkston might be the best pass blocked, but only marginally. As a run blocker, I'd put him between Greco and Lauvao. He may have benefited from having a guy like Joe Thomas to his left, though, in trying to compare him to Lauvao. He has more than a year left on his contract, so there is more long-term incentive to starting Pinkston if the team feels he's equivalent in talent to Lauvao.
Final Roster Odds: 99%
On Sunday, we'll look at some of the backup offensive linemen. In the mean time, vote in the poll below on which two offensive guards you think will start on opening day.