O-line not in need of ‘building’

Posted by Vic Carucci on April 9, 2013 – 12:07 am

By Vic Carucci, Senior Editor

You’ve got questions and comments that you submit to the Browns’ official Facebook and Twitter pages, and Daily@ClevelandBrowns.com. Here’s what I have to say about what you have to say:

Steve – How about building an offensive line to protect the quarterback? Hard for any quarterback to complete passes lying on their back.

Steve, I don’t know that I would say the Browns are in need of “building” their offensive line.

When you’re as exceptional/solid as the Browns are at left tackle (Joe Thomas), center (Alex Mack), and right tackle (Mitchell Schwartz), you can legitimately say that to a large extent your line is already built.

The obvious questions are at guard, but I’m not entirely sure how much work the team plans to do there. We’ll have to see how left guard Jason Pinkston returns from having his 2012 season shortened by the blood clot he developed. And Shawn Lauvao will be looking to state his case to remain a starter at right guard.

I think it’s reasonable to expect that the Browns will draft a guard at some point, probably in the middle or late rounds, and that should enhance competition at both spots in training camp and the preseason.

However, for the most part, I suspect that the team’s brain trust is putting its faith in the expectation that the line will collectively improve with the help of strong guidance from position coaches George Warhop and Mike Sullivan, from the scheme devised by coach Rob Chudzinski and offensive coordinator Norv Turner, and from the experienced gained by Schwartz, Lauvao, and Pinkston.

The best-case scenario is entering the season with a group that can mostly, if not completely, remain intact. Show me a great offensive line, and I’ll show you one with great continuity.

Dave – Is cutting so much of their defense without signing new players making the Browns better? Only so many draft picks can start.

Dave, the Browns’ defense clearly lost a good deal of experience by parting ways with the likes of linebacker Chris Gocong, safety Usama Young, and defensive end Frostee Rucker.

However, in the cases of Gocong and Rucker, the moves were necessitated by the fact they do not fit in the team’s new 3-4 scheme. They would be the first to acknowledge as much. And the Browns have added two free-agent linebackers (Paul Kruger and Quentin Groves) and a free-agent defensive lineman (Desmond Bryant) whose background and/or skills should allow them to be right at home in the 3-4.

With Young, it was more a case of deciding that his production through the past two seasons since his arrival in free agency didn’t make a compelling case to keep him over someone younger at the position. Young also struggled to stay healthy.

It’s true that the Browns are likely to lean on their draft to help plug some holes on both sides of the ball, but probably not as much as they did last year. And the fact is that teams throughout the league – including the Super Bowl-champion Baltimore Ravens – are relying more and more on rookies to start or make key contributions.

Those are the business realities of the NFL in the salary-cap era. And they apply even to teams, such as the Browns, with a good deal of cap space available because they always need to be looking toward money that will be spent in the future to extend contracts of existing players.

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