So much for plans “A” through “Y”. The Cleveland Browns are moving forward with plan “Z” in sliding Pro Bowl left guard Joel Bitonio over to left tackle to replace sure-fire hall of famer Joe Thomas.
That’s a very tall task, but one for which coach Hue Jackson believes Bitonio is up to task.
Bitonio played a significant amount of the first-team left tackle snaps for the first time on Wednesday, according to the Akron-Beacon Journal’s Nate Ulrich.
Although Shon Coleman has received some first-team LT reps today, Joel Bitonio has been at LT with the ones for the vast majority of today’s practice.— Nate Ulrich (@ByNateUlrich) August 1, 2018
“We made the decision that maybe our best five right now is putting Joel out at left tackle, putting (OL Austin) Corbett at left guard and going from there,” Jackson said following Wednesday’s practice. “Not saying that Joel might be there the whole time.
“Right now, he is there.”
Jackson didn’t close the door on others stepping into the role eventually, but he reiterated that Bitonio has moved from plan “Z” to plan “A” in under one week of camp.
“Obviously, there could be some people within our team that could play it, but right now, I think that he gives us the best chance to go out and play tackle and solidify the offensive line right now.”
Although Jackson says Bitonio is today’s best option for his team, the coach has been known to flip flop and waver in past personnel decisions. He has been extremely fluid with the quarterback position, especially, despite having conviction when naming several different starters during his two seasons with the team.
Nevertheless, Jackson left himself some more wiggle room by leaving a big door open for former first-round pick Greg Robinson. Robinson has missed most of training camp after sustaining a concussion during last Friday’s camp session.
“It is full speed ahead with Joel, but Greg (Robinson) will factor into that,” Jackson hedged. “He has not practiced enough.
“I do not know enough about him yet to say if he can or if he can’t. We have to give him a chance to get out there, get back healthy and compete.”
Bitonio hasn’t been fully supportive of the change. After all, the fifth-year lineman has made his money on the interior, and moving to the outside tackle spot is a new and unknown challenge.
Jackson said the Browns assured him they think the move is what’s best for the team, but also that they are going to continue to do “everything” they can to explore other options. That makes it sound like general manager John Dorsey may be busy in the upcoming weeks, whether through trades or scouring the waiver wire as roster cuts go down.
Shon Coleman looks to be on the outside looking in for the role, even if Bitonio doesn’t end up as the team’s left tackle this season. The third-year lineman started all 16 games for the Browns at right tackle last season, but moving to the left is a difficult and complex transition.
“Shon needs time; it is time,” Jackson said when asked about Coleman’s inconsistencies in camp. “I think that there are a lot of things that Shon did well. When I look at it, overall for where we are, that position has to play better for us.
“This is the decision that I made.”
Rookie Austin Corbett has moved into Bitonio’s former left guard spot, and he seems to have Jackson’s full support in that position if Bitonio does indeed end up making the switch permanently.
It’s increasingly growing worrisome that the team has been so seemingly nonchalant about the left tackle position this offseason. Now, one week into training camp and preparing for their first preseason game, Jackson is moving one of his star players to a new position.
Something tells me this situation could have been handled better, especially given the importance of the position.
Joe Thomas, any chance you’re contemplating coming out of retirement?
Now would be a great time to announce it.