Left tackle has not been a topic of conversation during Cleveland Browns training camp for the last eleven years. 2018 is different. The battle to replace Joe Thomas is arguably the biggest topic of all the position battles in Berea.
It’s no secret that replacing a franchise and future Hall of Fame left tackle is not easy. Shon Coleman is the top candidate. Former number two overall pick Greg Robinson and rookie Austin Corbett are next in line. Robinson is currently out after entering the NFL’s concussion protocol. Offensive line coach Bob Wylie knows he has a tough job ahead of him.
“The state of the left tackle is the state of the union,” Wylie said. “Shon is fighting. He is doing well at the spot. He is. We brought Greg Robinson in, and he gets a concussion. Now, we put Austin back out there to take the spot. We are waiting for Desmond (Harrison), we keep working with Desmond every day with the mental part of the game. You see him back of the huddle taking [mental] reps. You see one of the coaches like (offensive quality control coach) Brian (Braswell) stays with him and goes over assignments with him to make sure he is on page. We are waiting for him to get back on the field.”
Coleman replaced Thomas following the torn triceps injury that ultimately sent Thomas into retirement. As expected, Coleman had some ups and downs in 2017. Coleman led the NFL in holding penalties. That has to change if he keeps the job to start 2018.
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“I think what happened is when guys hold a lot, it is because they are afraid to fail,” Wylie said. “They are afraid to get beat. They are afraid to fail. You can’t be afraid to fail and play at the highest level you need to play at so you have to go play. If you make a mistake, you make it. Play the next play. Do not be afraid to fail. What happens is you try to reach out and they try to grab because they do not want to lose the guy, and then we get the holding call. You have to get them out of that mental state of not being afraid to fail, and then the calls will come down.”
Another option could involve moving left guard Joel Bitonio over to left tackle. That’s not what Wylie would want to do.
“That is the last [option],” Wylie said. “If you were going to go A down, that would be Z. That would be Z.”
“In the spring, I took a couple reps there, but since I have been back, it has been all at left guard for me,” Bitonio said. “I think it is something that is pretty far down the line. Right now, I am really focused on playing left guard and trying to get whoever is playing next to me ready to play left tackle. We have some options there. Right now, I do not think it is a thing where I have to volunteer for the spot. If we go down the line and something needs to happen, we will see what happens there. For right now, I am just thinking about the first day of pads and playing left guard.”
With the first team scrimmage and preseason game coming up, there is an opportunity for someone to take the lead in the battle.
“Whoever that guy is we will make a decision and we will work with that guy,” Wylie said. “If we need to do something to help it, with formations, protections, with the backs, all of that stuff, we will do that. We want to try to keep the four together as long as possible.”
Scott Piker is the Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage Browns.