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Browns need to keep Joel Bitonio at LG

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The Browns are looking for a left tackle for the first time since 2007, but Bitonio is not the answer.

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Houston Texans Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Browns have had a problem at left tackle since Oct. 22, 2017.

That was the day that left tackle Joe Thomas went down with a triceps injury during a game against the Tennessee Titans. The injury, along with a decade of wear and tear, led to Thomas retiring in the offseason.

The Browns have entered training camp with the plan of having third-year offensive lineman Shon Coleman take over the left tackle position. The club also drafted Nevada left tackle Austin Corbett in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft and signed free agent Greg Robinson, a former first-round pick turned NFL bust, as insurance in case Coleman does not work out.

There has also been chatter that the team will look to move left guard Joel Bitonio to the tackle position, an idea Bitonio does not seem completely on board with.

In speaking with the media prior to practice on Saturday, Bitonio said the idea of making a position switch is something that is “pretty far down the line,” according to clevelandbrowns.com:

“Right now, I am really focused on playing left guard and trying to get whoever is playing next to me ready to play left tackle. We have some options there. Right now, I do not think it is a thing where I have to volunteer for the spot. If we go down the line and something needs to happen, we will see what happens there. For right now, I am just thinking about the first day of pads and playing left guard.

“In the spring, I took a couple reps there, but since I have been back, it has been all at left guard for me.”

It was never going to be easy to replace Thomas, obviously, as he played at a Hall of Fame level from the moment he first walked onto the practice field in Berea.

But moving Bitonio to left tackle before the Browns know what they have in Coleman and Corbett is a bad idea. When healthy Bitonio has shown he is one of the league’s best left guards, so the Browns know that position is solid.

Bitonio might be able to play left tackle, but that is anything but a lock. And moving him weakens the left guard position as the Browns have no one as good as Bitonio to take over the position.

The Browns need to simply leave Bitonio alone while the position battle at left tackle plays out in training camp and the preseason.

Anything else would just be a case of the “same old Browns.”