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Cleveland Browns Training Camp 2018: OL Preview, Part 1

A look at the four starters who appear to be locked in to a job heading into training camp.

NFL: Tennessee Titans at Cleveland Browns Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Our next position to preview leading up to Cleveland Browns training camp is the offensive line. This preview will be broken down into four parts, covering all 17 of the team’s linemen. Often times we like to look at the five starters in Part 1, but because there is a competition at left tackle this year, that competition will be saved for Part 2.

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

1. Joel Bitonio - Starting Left Guard

Height: 6-4 | Weight: 305 lbs | Age: 26
Experience: 5 years | College: Nevada

The Browns took care of Joel Bitonio’s contract last offseason, so he will be with the team through the 2022 season. The big question the team faces right now is whether they keep Bitonio in his comfort zone at left guard, or do they consider using him as the heir to Joe Thomas at left tackle?

Bitonio was the 6th-highest graded guard in the NFL last year by Pro Football Focus, and it was the first time since his rookie year that he was able to avoid injury to start all 16 games. Although he still needs to work his way up a little to be recognized as a Pro Bowler in the AFC, he is already a complete player, excelling in both run and pass blocking.

Offensive line coach Bob Wylie recently talked about how he doesn’t doubt that Bitonio could play left tackle, but why fix what isn’t broken?

“Just because you’re the best guy doesn’t mean you’re in the best spot,” Wylie said. “Joel is an elite left guard. Could he play tackle? Sure, but it would take a while for him to learn the nuances. If he’s the best lineman, is he really the best left tackle? Not necessarily.

Final Roster Odds: 100%

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Cleveland Browns Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

2. Kevin Zeitler - Starting Right Guard

Height: 6-4 | Weight: 315 lbs | Age: 28
Experience: 7 years | College: Wisconsin

Last year was Kevin Zeitler’s first as a member of the Browns and he, like Joel Bitonio, started every game at his position (right guard). The most veteran player of the offensive line in terms of years of experience, Zeitler was another player who I had Pro Bowl aspirations for in 2017. He got off to a bit of a slow start to the season, perhaps exasperated by all of the team’s losing ways.

By the end of the season, Zeitler had found his ground, finishing as the 10th-highest graded overall guard by Pro Football Focus, with a top-10 pass block ranking and a top-25 run block ranking. In late November, Zeitler allowed his first sack since Week 1 of the 2016 season when he was a member of the Bengals. He has been durable, not having missed any games in the past three seasons.

Zeitler doesn’t come off as the most quote-worthy person in interviews, but his wife is always on Twitter cheering he and the Browns on.

Final Roster Odds: 100%

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Chicago Bears Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

3. J.C. Tretter - Starting Center

Height: 6-4 | Weight: 307 lbs | Age: 27
Experience: 6 years | College: Cornell

Last year was J.C. Tretter’s first year as the Browns’ new starting center and he did what he needed to do: provide more stability than Cam Erving ever did. He is playing on a pretty affordable contract and was named the Browns’ best individual pass blocker last year by PFF with a grade of 97.2, only allowing 25 pressures on the season.

Tretter is also a former member of the Green Bay Packers, where a good portion of Cleveland’s front office was rooted. They should know Tretter well and the player he has become. It is true that the position could be upgraded in the future, but right now, it would have to be one of the lower priorities for the team to consider, and they still have a couple of backup candidates on the roster.

Final Roster Odds: 100%

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

4. Chris Hubbard - Starting Right Tackle

Height: 6-4 | Weight: 295 lbs | Age: 27
Experience: 5 years | College: Alabama-Birmingham

The Browns signed Chris Hubbard to a 5-year, $37.5 million deal with $18 million guaranteed this offseason. The contract is a little high for a player who is far from a proven commodity. The signing immediately made him the new starting right tackle, abruptly bumping Shon Coleman over to left tackle to compete for a spot.

Hubbard, an undrafted free agent who signed with the Steelers in 2013, started 14 games over the past two seasons, including 10 last year at both guard and right tackle. New offensive coordinator Todd Haley could have been a champion for urging the team to sign Hubbard. DBN’s Andrea Hangst follows the Steelers closely and wrote about the move when it happened. Here is a snippet of what she had to say:

“Hubbard has been essentially brought up in Haley’s system; his presence in Cleveland now provides a coach-to-player bridge between the offense and the rest of the line. It also should help that Hubbard is accustomed to Haley’s coaching style, which could be generously described as a little brash.”

According to Pro Football Focus, Hubbard only allowed 3 sacks last year and was the league’s 40th-graded lineman, a number that could have been higher if it weren’t for one “disastrous” game he had against the Ravens.

Final Roster Odds: 100%

Our poll question today asks whether the Browns should move Joel Bitonio to the starting left tackle spot and let him see if it works.


Should the Browns switch Joel Bitonio from LG to LT?

This poll is closed

  • 8%
    (149 votes)
  • 91%
    (1596 votes)
1745 votes total Vote Now