The Cleveland Browns entered training camp with a plan to fill the vacant hole at right guard.
But as the poet Robert Burns pointed out in 1786, the best laid plans can often go awry.
When general manager John Dorsey traded starting right guard Kevin Zeitler to the New York Giants for defensive end Olivier Vernon, the expectation was that second-year offensive lineman Austin Corbett would be able to take over at right guard.
It soon became apparent that Corbett - a college left tackle who “projects” as a guard or center (it changes regularly) in the NFL - was not up to the task. The Browns then tried a rotating cast of players at the position before seemingly settling on Eric Kush, a free agent signing who was benched by the Chicago Bears for the second half of the 2018 season.
That plan may have taken a detour on Thursday, however, as Dorsey made a trade with the Buffalo Bills for guard Wyatt Teller, who was a member of one of the league’s worst offensive lines last season and a candidate to be cut by the Bills.
Wasn't going go make the roster. Could be an OK backup.— Vic Carucci (@viccarucci) August 29, 2019
Now, with the season opener against the Tennessee Titans just eight days away, the Browns are still figuring out who will line up at right guard for the opener, head coach Freddie Kitchens told clevelandbrowns.com:
“Eric is our right guard as we speak, but we haven’t even had Wyatt on the field yet. My first inkling would be to say yes, but we haven’t seen [Teller] on the field yet. We still have four practices to get through. We will see where it all goes. Even though training camp has ended, there is always competition. There is always going to be competition while I am here. I think you get the most out of everybody when you run it that way.”
Kush would appear to have a bit of an advantage over Teller as Kush has spent all of training camp and the preseason learning the playbook, the protection schemes and other important aspects of protecting quarterback Baker Mayfield.
The sad reality is that it may not matter which player the Browns put out there as Teller and Kush are basically the same player. Scott Patsko at cleveland.com compared the two using Pro Football Focus’ grades from 2018 and there is not a clear edge for either Teller or Kush:
- 2018 snap totals: Teller: (eight games, seven starts) 11 at right guard, 464 at left guard for the Bills. Kush: (16 games, seven starts) 28 snaps at right guard, 316 at left guard for the Bears.
- 2018 pass blocking: Teller: No sacks, two hits, six hurries, five penalties, 78.3 pass blocking grade from Pro Football Focus. Kush: No sacks, no hits, three hurries, two penalties, 79.6 pass blocking grade from PFF.
- 2018 run blocking: Teller: 49.0 grade from PFF. Kush: 48.5 grade from PFF.
The Browns are in this situation of their own doing. While it is true that sometimes you have to give up something good (Zeitler) to get something good in return (Vernon), Dorsey clearly misjudged the readiness of Corbett.
The team has been struggling all summer to figure out what to do at right guard and still does not have a clear answer heading into the final week of practice before the season opener.
At this point, the coaching staff needs to hope that whichever player they settle on can give them a consistent performance. As long as the coaches have a reasonable expectation of what they will get from the right guard position on a weekly basis, they can work the protection schemes to make up for any shortcomings.
The right guard position has been in flux from the moment of the Zeitler trade.
It does appear that the situation will resolve itself anytime soon.