Cleveland Browns Training Camp Preview: Right Tackle
By Joel W. Cade
The Cleveland Browns will enter training camp having lost their starting right tackle. Can Alvin Bailey and Shon Coleman fill the void?
This is the fifth part of a five-part series previewing the offensive line. This article will explore the battle for the starting right tackle position.
The Cleveland Browns needed to revamp their offensive line for two reasons. First, as Football Outsiders has pointed out, the Browns offensive line was not very good last year. Be it because of scheme predictability or loss of offensive line coach Andy Moeller just as the season started, the Browns offensive line did not live up to its top-five billing. Second, the change in coaching staff brings with it yet another change in offensive scheme.
This season’s edition of the offensive line will be asked to execute a power run scheme. This scheme differs greatly from the zone run scheme. In the zone run, every lineman basically had the same blocking assignment. The defense’s reaction at the snap determined who each lineman would block. This season will see diversity in schematic assignment for the men up front. The power run scheme is complex (compared to zone) and requires each lineman to possess a different skill set.
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One of the ways the Browns revamped their offensive line was letting Mitchell Schwartz leave. His primary skill set was that of a pass blocker. He was extremely effective against Von Miller. It comes as no surprise that the Kansas City Chiefs, who primarily pass the ball and who play the Denver Broncos twice each season, would have great interest in him.
His departure left the Browns in position to recast the right tackle position in the mold of the power run. And that they did by signing Alvin Bailey and drafting Shon Coleman. Bailey and Coleman are more alike than different. Both are big men who played in the SEC. Both are primarily run blockers who struggle in pass protection. Lucky for the Browns, they do not need Coleman or Bailey to do the heaving lifting in pass protection.
The right tackle position in a power run scheme is primarily a run blocker. He needs to generate movement at the point of attack by blocking down on double teams or moving to the second level to block a linebacker. Movement is key because the power run scheme requires movement at the point of attack by the right tackle and right guard in order to allow the left guard to generate movement in the kick out block. The result is a hole pried open like metal ripped apart by the jaws of life.
Mitchell Schwartz is not a jaws of life run blocker. So the Browns decided to let him leave and find a tackle who can rip apart defenses.
During OTAs, the Browns opened competition for the right tackle position. Alvin Bailey emerged as the leader at right tackle when OTAs ended. Bailey was signed by the Browns to a three-year, $6 million contract with only $1 million guaranteed. This signing seemed fortuitous for the Browns as offensive line coach Hal Hunter believed the Seahawks would re-sign him. Hunter recently stated:
"You look at Alvin Bailey when he played last year [in Seattle], he went in for (former Seahawks and Broncos OL) Russell Okung at left tackle. He played really good. When they had me evaluate him, I was like, ‘Why am I wasting my time because they’re not letting him go?’ Then, I was really excited when he came in here for the visit."
The Browns were excited enough to sign him and move him to right tackle.
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Bailey has played primarily guard in both the college and the professional ranks. He played both left and right guard in college, as Arkansas was one of the rare teams that would rotate their line to the formation strength. He was the strong side guard (equivalent of Browns right guard). He excelled in college as a run blocker prying open holes. However, he struggled to protect the passer.
The Seahawks signed Bailey as an undrafted free agent after the 2013 NFL Draft. For the Seahawks, Bailey primarily played guard. However, his size made him a perfect candidate for a reserve swing role. As such, over his three-year stint in Seattle, Bailey made starts at left tackle, left guard and right tackle. When he failed to win the left guard position coming out of camp in 2015, Bailey expressed his displeasure by stating he could think of 31 other cities to be in.
Despite tweets demonstrating his desire to leave Seattle, the Seahawks sought to retain Bailey, but only for less than the $1.617 million tender necessary to keep him from becoming an unrestricted free agent. They gambled that nobody would offer Bailey that much. The Seahawks did not tender Bailey and the Browns swooped in to get their man.
So far Bailey has lived up to Hal Hunter’s expectations. He has taken a majority of the snaps at right tackle during OTAs, earning praise from both Hue Jackson and Joe Thomas. Part of the reason he got those snaps in OTAs was due to Shon Coleman’s ongoing recovery from an MCL tear.
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Shon Coleman was selected by the Browns in the third round of the 2016 NFL draft. He played in the spread power run offense that helped coach Gus Malzahn reach the 2014 BCS National Championship game with Auburn. (Malzahn’s book The Hurry-Up, No-Huddle: An Offensive Philosophy is a must read for college football fans)
Shon Coleman’s story is well-known. Coming out of high school Coleman was recruited to play at Auburn. However, shortly thereafter he was diagnosed with lymphoblastic leukemia. He spent the next two and a half years receiving chemotherapy treatments at St. Jude’s Hospital in Memphis.
In 2013 he was chosen to announce the No. 13 overall selection of the NFL draft. At that time Commissioner Roger Goodell told Coleman, “I know I’ll see you back here in a couple of years.” Coleman was drafted three years later by the Cleveland Browns, except the commissioner did not see him in Chicago. Coleman had his draft party at the hospital where he battled leukemia for those two years.
As a football player, Coleman’s best comparison is Greg Robinson. They both come from the same school and offensive system. Is it any wonder they have relatively the same flaws to overcome? Don’t get me wrong, Robinson is the better athlete but Coleman is no slouch. Coleman is a big man who has played in a spread offense. LeCharles Bentley put it best when he states, “I won’t mince my words here. Offensive linemen aren’t developed in the spread.” Coleman will have to overcome his lack of technique and skill refinement if he is going to start this season in Cleveland.
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Coleman will likely serve as the swing tackle as he works to overcome a steep learning curve in the NFL. He will have to learn a lot of skills. The most challenging will be how to use a three-point stance correctly. Spread offenses predominantly put tackles in two-point stances. This creates pad-level and leverage issues, which a big man like Coleman will struggle to overcome. He will need at least a year to simply learn the basics of professional offensive line technique before being ready to play on Sundays.
Once camp starts, if Coleman is healthy, expect this to be a real position battle. If Coleman is not healthy, Bailey will win the job by default as Spencer Drango has the body of a guard with all the issues that come with playing tackle in a spread offense.
Next: Browns will be better than 3-13 in 2016
Either way, the Browns will enter the season with questions at right tackle. Will the Browns offense be able to break in a center and a right tackle and succeed in 2016? They might, as Hue Jackson’s offense is offensive line friendly. But only time will tell.