By Vic Carucci, Senior Editor
This is the fourth in a series of position-by-position thoughts on the Browns after nine games. In this installment, we take a look at the offensive line:
>>The biggest story at this position is that Mitchell Schwartz, the Browns’ second-round draft pick from Cal, has held up mostly well as the starter at right tackle from the beginning of the season. And the best part about the way Schwartz has performed is that, since struggling in the season-opener against Philadelphia, he has largely gone unnoticed. That’s because he is not consistently getting beat and he is not consistently drawing penalties. Schwartz is maximizing his combination of considerable size (6-foot-5 and 320 pounds) and athleticism. He’s making steady improvement, with some of his better performances coming in recent weeks, and seems to have finally solidified what had been a problem spot for the Browns for many years.
>>For the most part, the line has done exceptionally well in pass protection and has been mostly solid in run-blocking. Having allowed only 14 sacks for minus-83 yards, the Browns are on pace to give up 28 sacks, which would be their fewest since 2008. That’s saying something, given that quarterback Brandon Weeden does not have tremendous mobility and works primarily from the pocket. Although the Browns’ run-blocking hasn’t always been effective, it has opened enough holes to help Trent Richardson rush for 575 yards, with back-to-back 100-yard games in his last two outings. The first, for 122 yards, came against the San Diego Chargers, who have one of the better run defenses in the NFL.
>>The lone bit of adversity to hit the line came after Week 6, when left guard Jason Pinkston developed a blood clot that would sideline him for the rest of the season. Pinkston was showing significant progress from his rookie year in 2011. He demonstrated greater toughness and looked like he was on course for a strong second season.
>>John Greco has been solid in Pinkston’s place the past three games. His five years of NFL experience have benefitted the overall play of the line and especially to the interior, where second-year right guard Shawn Lauvao continues to work at making improvement.
>>Joe Thomas and Alex Mack remain fixtures at left tackle and center, respectively. Their steady presence has helped the unit have good continuity and not buckle under the added challenge of working with a pair of rookies (Weeden and Richardson) whose movement patterns and other tendencies are being learned on the fly.
>>Carucci’s Corner is presented by Panera Bread.
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