In the beginning of their 2018 season, Cleveland had issues with their offensive line.
The 2018 season saw the culmination of a two-year winning drought for the Browns, along with the rise of the ‘Prince of Cleveland,’ Baker Mayfield. It was a good season despite the final record, and Cleveland fans once again had hope for the future. The season wasn’t without its drama or issues, however; then team found themselves stuck with head coach and other personnel changes to player conflicts and highlighted weaknesses in their game.
One such weakness that was evident during the first half of the season was the offensive line.
They weren’t that bad; in fact, the latter half of the season saw some incredible protection of Baker Mayfield. But the offensive line is one of the areas that could certainly be improved heading into the 2019 season.
Since the conclusion of the 2018 season, the entirety of the offensive line has been kept on … with the exception of the loss of Kevin Zeitler, and the usual addition of new depth and competition. This should make for some good battles and an improved line in 2019. One particular position to keep an eye on when training camp commences on July 25 is the right guard position, left vacant by Zeitler.
It was generally assumed that second-year guard Austin Corbett would step up into the starting right guard spot alongside right tackle Chris Hubbard. However, it doesn’t appear he has solidified his position just yet. General manager John Dorsey made the effort of bringing in a couple of veteran guards in Eric Kush and Bryan Witzmann pre-draft, then took another offensive lineman in the sixth round of the event. Post-draft, Dorsey signed rookie free agent offensive linemen Brian Fineanganofo and Ka’John Armstrong. The team obviously means business when it comes to smoothing out their 2018 lineup.
Here’s a look at the main right guard competitors:
He is young, in his second year, and eager to prove himself. However, he’s only taken 14 snaps at the NFL level and has plenty of learning to do. He was a left tackle in college and was thrust to the interior upon his arrival in Cleveland. As such, it’s been a bit of a transition for him but this year should see him start to understand and play at the guard position better. Whether he really wants it enough and to give it all he has remains to be seen so keep an eye on Corbett during camp.
Witzmann is an NFL veteran, though he has been on the roster of more teams than he has years in the NFL. Predominantly a backup or practice squad player, Witzmann has had some struggles establishing himself in the league. He’s played left guard and right guard for the likes of Kansas City and Chicago, and most recently he was the stand-in right guard for the Bears. He has many more reps than Corbett and, on that fact alone, new line coach James Campen might be able to bring out the best in Witzmann. He has a solid chance at winning the starting right guard duties.
Never write off a position change in offensive linemen during the offseason. There is a possibility that one of the new additions tries out at right guard to challenge both Corbett and Witzmann. Moving the likes of Eric Kush (currently depth at left guard) or shifting the rookie Drew Forbes to the interior are two options that could be pulled off for added competition.
All in all, the offensive line does have some questions marks this season, but training camp will be a time of answers. There will be a solidified line up front and — provided the performance is there like the latter half of 2018 — this season should live up to the hype.