One of the biggest storylines for the Cleveland Browns during training camp and the preseason will be the state of the offensive line.
The club has just two positions that can be considered safe with left guard Joel Bitonio and center JC Tretter. The rest of the starting line is made up of left tackle Greg Robinson, who is looking to prove that the final eight games of last season were not a mirage; right tackle Chris Hubbard, who is “just a guy” a game days; and the whole at right guard created by the trade of former starter Kevin Zeitler.
Second-year man Austin Corbett, a left tackle in college, will be first man up to claim the open slot at right guard, but will be pushed by the likes of Kyle Kalis, Eric Kush, Bryan Witzmann and Drew Forbes.
Those question marks help explain why the Browns will enter training camp at No. 20 in the preseason offensive line rankings at Pro Football Focus:
Cleveland’s interior offensive line was the major reason why the line was widely touted as one of the league’s best in 2018, but the front now looks much different after shipping Kevin Zeitler to New York in exchange for Odell Beckham and Olivier Vernon. Second-year guard Austin Corbett, who has logged just 14 NFL snaps, will step in alongside right tackle Chris Hubbard. The Browns’ offense is now lightyears better following an exciting offseason, but it will be intriguing to see how the offensive line fares given their losses.
For those keeping score at home, that is a major drop off from last season when the Browns finished the year of PFF’s second-best offensive line.
While there may not be a direct correlation between the quality of a team’s offensive line and its ability to win games, six of the top 10 teams in the rankings did make the playoffs last season. Of the four that missed, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Tennessee Titans Tennessee Titansboth won nine games, and the Browns would have posted a winning record if they were not forced to pay the Hue Jackson tax for half the season.
So it would be fair to say that having a good offensive line helps the cause when it comes to winning.
Let’s end this on a positive note. While the low ranking highlights the work the Browns need to do, the team has all of training camp and the preseason to get the offensive line in order.