Left tackle is still the biggest position battle of training camp 2018 for the Cleveland Browns. No pun intended, but it’s no small feat to replace a future hall of fame left tackle in Joe Thomas just months following his retirement.
Joel Bitonio is still number one on the depth chart following the Browns 20-10 victory over the New York Giants in preseason game number one. Bitonio only played in the first quarter, so more time is needed for a full evaluation. Will Bitonio see more action on Friday night against the Buffalo Bills?
— Fred Greetham (@FredGreetham) August 13, 2018
“Absolutely, no doubt,” head coach Hue Jackson said following practice Monday evening. “He is not going to get more than he is supposed to, but he is going to keep playing that position, if that is what you are asking.”
“I am getting there,” Bitonio said. “You finally play in a game and starts to become more of a reality. Practice is practice. I think that every day I get a little more comfortable. I feel more comfortable in my stance, position in the huddle and things like that. It is getting there.”
Need to Know: Joel Bitonio draws favorable reviews in 1st official action at left tackle
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) August 13, 2018
Bitonio is likely to be the starting left tackle for the regular season barring an injury or a roster move following final cuts. It’s never easy to switch positions during the season. Bitonio is only moving one position to the left on the offensive line, but it’s no walk in the park to make the move.
“I was getting back there,” Bitonio said. “I felt a little bit not ‘uncomfortable’ but just a fish out of water in the sense that I am actually doing this in a game against a good pass rusher. So it was kind of hard to get into a great rhythm, but there are things to work on.”
— Fred Greetham (@FredGreetham) August 14, 2018
Bitonio isn’t getting all of the first team snaps in practice this week. Former number two overall pick Greg Robinson is getting a chance to win the job as well. Bitonio moved over to his natural position during those plays.
“Bitonio is still our starting left tackle,” Jackson said. “We just have to keep working combinations and things. It means nothing. It just means that every now and then, I am going to stick Greg out there and make sure that Joel keeps playing some left guard. I told you guys, if we find an answer in-house, then great. If we do not, then I feel good about Joel being out there.”
No matter who eventually wins the starting left tackle job, a decision needs to be made soon. Preseason game three should be the game where the starter receives plenty of reps to get ready for the regular season.
Scott Piker is the Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage Browns. So follow him on twitter @ScottPikerSport