Hue Jackson Makes Agonizing Decision About Starting Left Tackle

Rookie Undrafted Free Agent Desmond Harrison Wins the Job

Hue Jackson
Source: Scott Piker

Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson had an agonizing time deciding who his starting left tackle will be Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

“Desmond Harrison will be the starting left tackle,” Jackson announced Friday afternoon. Joel (Bitonio) will start at [left] guard. On we go.”

So the first guy to start the regular season at left tackle not named Joe Thomas is an undrafted rookie free agent. In addition, Harrison has not played football in two years.

“We had all of those conversations,” said Jackson. “I will keep that between Desmond and us. I think that the most important thing going forward now is that this guy is going to be out left tackle and he is going to go play good football. That is what we need him to do.”

So exactly why is this decision so agonizing?

“Here we are playing against our division rival, one of the best teams in the AFC in the opening game. You look at it two ways. You leave Joel out there and stick a left guard in there as a rookie who can play. Or you leave Joel where he has been a very good player, a very dominant player and play a guy who is a really good player, we feel, and has tremendous upside. You go back and forth on that,” said Jackson. “When you look at it, I think this is the best decision for our organization and the team.”

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Replacing Joe Thomas is a big issue, no pun intended. So how does an undrafted rookie free agent beat out a veteran like Bitonio for the job of protecting Tyrod Taylor’s blindside?

“Practice. Watching him over the last few weeks with the ones out at practice, all that practice and watching him in games. Obviously, he is talented enough,” said Jackson. “This is hopefully going to be our lineup thought the season. He has handled everything really well. I feel good about those five guys. I think it gives us the best chance to have the most success.”

The decision to start Harrison isn’t permanent by any means. How he handles the pressure will go a long way in determining if he remains the starting left tackle all season long. Harrison has big shoes to fill. He has to be himself and not try to be the next Thomas.

“I have talked to him. This is a very confident young man,” said Jackson. “He truly believes in his ability. The other linemen really believe in what he can do, too. That has a lot to say about his talent. What all of the players want to know is can he win for us? Can he block those guys consistently? We will start to find that out this Sunday.”

Scott Piker is the Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage Browns. So follow him on twitter @ScottPikerSport

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