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Last Browns training camp for OG Drew Forbes?

The time to contribute keeps getting further away

Pittsburgh Steelers v Cleveland Browns Photo by: 2019 Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

Remember in 2018 when the Browns had the first pick in each round and took Baker Mayfield first overall instead of quarterbacks Lamar Jackson or Josh Allen? Who wouldn’t want to have a look back at those scouting notes?

It’s the first pick in the second round that is the focus here. OT Orlando Brown? No. TE Mark Andrews? Hardly. Maybe DE Josh Sweat? Nope. Cleveland selected OG Austin Corbett out of the University of Nevada.

The thought process was for Mayfield and Corbett to sit for a season, then take over their respective positions and become part of a young-blood offense with second-round pick RB Nick Chubb and the speedy Antonio Callaway, a fourth-round pick.

Corbett came highly decorated, received an invite to the Senior Bowl, was a finalist for the Burlsworth Trophy given to the nation’s best walk-on player, plus named First Team All-Mountain West. After a full year of tutelage, in his second year, he was penciled in at right guard before training camp in place of the departed Kevin Zeitler who was shipped off in a trade with the New York Football Giants. Zeitler was a very good player, but the presence and lower price of Corbett made him expendable.

Except Corbett struggled. He was beaten often and had issues defending his gap. He would allow longer players to get into his chest, which hurt his ability to control them. Corbett consistently lost hand battles which helped the defender win the play and get past him to pressure the quarterback.

Corbett started the first preseason game and by the second contest, he was suddenly listed as the backup center. He would later be traded to the Los Angeles Rams. Eventually, Eric Kush won the right guard job only to have Wyatt Teller emerge and take over at mid-season.

Cleveland Browns Offseason Workout Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

Drew Forbes has had a different, yet similar career to Corbett.

It has been said that Forbes was one of the most scouted players on the Browns. A glance at who this department chose as their starting quarterback doesn’t really say all that much.

Offensive guards and centers are usually found on the second and third day of the college draft.

Forbes was a sixth-round pick in the 2019 NFL draft. Teller had just completed the season at right guard, but there were questions as to whether he was the right guy for the job. Forbes was drafted specifically to take over the right guard position.

But during Forbes’ rookie season, Teller’s abilities really came through. He shined and there was no doubt that the job was his. The only question would be how many Pro Bowls he would eventually collect.

Then COVID hit. Forbes was one of several players who opted out and did not compete in 2020.

Best kept secret

Forbes was a three-year starter at left tackle for Southeast Missouri State where he earned All-Ohio Valley Conference honors twice and was named to the FCS All-American team following his senior season. Forbes also helped lead the Redhawks to its first-ever playoff win as they finished 9-4 overall in 2018.

Despite his college success, he was not invited to the Combine nor any college All-Star games. Southeast Missouri did have a pro day in which eight NFL clubs had representation including the Browns.

Southeast Missouri State v Memphis
Drew Forbes #76 of the Southeast Missouri Redhawks
Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images

Cleveland and the other team’s scouts saw an impressive showing from Forbes. His numbers if compared to other offensive linemen at the Combine placed him in the Top-12 in five different drills including the 40. There he ran a 4.87 which would have ranked him Number 1 among all linemen.

His projection was fourth to fifth round. WKYC-TV 3 in Cleveland labeled Forbes “the best-kept secret” in the 2019 draft. Sports Illustrated did an anonymous pre-draft profile on an anonymous player who they coined as “the most overlooked player” in the draft, then announced towards the end of the article that their man was Forbes.

Forbes was taken in Round 6 in the 2019 NFL draft. At the time, he was the most scouted college player under then-GM John Dorsey’s regime. Yes, a guard received all of that attention.

In training camp, the buzz was that Forbes would be in competition right away against Corbett for Zeitler’s departed right guard slot. Also missing was LT Joe Thomas who had retired.

The heated competition never materialized. Corbett struggled and it was apparent Forbes came in exactly what he was: a sixth-round pick out of a smaller school whose conference saw only a handful of players ever make an NFL roster. Occasionally too high and out of control as a run blocker, Forbes was often dominant during the pre-season in pass protection.

Kush and Teller would battle all season long instead. Forbes would appear in two games as a rookie.

Then the following season when Forbes opted out it became clear Teller was a very special player. The competition was over.

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When Forbes returned in 2021, his arrival was met with a completely different set of standards. He was penciled in as third-team offensive guard on the left side now. His battle was with guys like Colby Gossett, Michael Dunn, Nick Harris, Blake Hance, and Chris Hubbard.

On the final cutdown, the Browns’ first moves to trim their roster from 80 to the required 53 before the NFL’s 4 p.m. ET deadline was to place Forbes (knee) and OT Greg Senat (knee) on the reserve/injured list.

After training camp the following year, on September 5, 2022, Forbes was waived by the Browns. One of the most scouted players in Browns history, he played sparingly mostly on punt and field goal teams, but did not have a single start in a regular season NFL game.

The same day he was cut the Detroit Lions picked him up, he appeared in one game, and the Lions released him one month later. With sevearl injuries among Cleveland’s offensive line, the Browns claimed him and waived S Richard LeCounte to make room.

Training camp 2023

There is always competition at every position during training camp and so far the offensive line has spent time getting used to playing for Deshaun Watson. This drives players to work harder and push the others.

With Joel Bitonio and Teller both being Pro Bowl athletes, Forbes has zero shot at a starting position.

NFL: Cleveland Browns-Minicamp Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

He is currently listed back at right guard behind Teller. His competition is Dunn, Harris, Wes Martin, and Gossett.

In the Kevin Stefanski/Andrew Berry era, the Browns typically keep 10 offensive linemen, and most years because of various injuries, they all play and are inserted in emergency situations.

A quick glance shows Jedrick Wills, Jack Conklin, Dawand Jones, and James Hudson making the final roster at tackle, Ethan Pocic and rookie Luke Wypler playing center, with Bitonio and Teller locks at guard.

That leaves two spots. Dunn is a coaching favorite, the veteran Martin has 12 NFL starts, OT Hunter Thedford is looked at as a valued developmental player, Harris has been with Cleveland several seasons now and can play three positions, while Tyrone Wheatley, Jr. has been around the Browns locker room for two seasons now.

Plus Forbes.

Both Dunn and Harris offer both guard and center players. Martin has valuable experience as a starter.

It is just difficult to imagine Forbes making this roster other than the practice squad. His career to date is two appearances in his rookie year, sat out 2020, was placed on IR the entire 2021, was released and then re-signed in 2022.

The statement as “the best-kept secret” and anticipation is about as close as Forbes has gotten to being a starter on the Browns’ offensive line.

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The Browns still like Forbes. It is certainly apparent that his opportunity to become a starter was missed with the opt-out decision. This allowed Teller to become a superstar.

And tackle is not an option since Cleveland has lots of options at that position already.

So Forbes’ best option is to attempt to become Bitonio’s backup and hope that he can beat out Dunn, Harris, and Martin.

Against the New York Jets in the Hall of Fame Game, the sack in the first half was Forbes’ man. He also had a holding call. Forbes played on 39 snap counts, which was 53% of offensive plays. This was the same amount as Dunn. So far seasoned veteran Wes Martin has looked a lot better.

Is he still considered a solid starter for the future, or camp fodder? His history indicates he can’t remain healthy. Plus, Dunn, Harris, and Martin have already proven they are capable backups.

This may be the final Browns training camp for Forbes. And if it is, the timeline where Forbes and Teller were set to battle it out for the starting right guard position in 2020 is his defining moment. Instead of combat, he took the opt-out while Teller never looked back.