Cleveland Browns: Competition good for RT position
By Joel W. Cade
The Cleveland Browns have a true battle at the right tackle position where Spencer Drango has taken the early lead, proving any lineman has a chance take the starting position.
The Cleveland Browns released their first depth chart on Monday with a nice surprise as Spencer Drango, the fifth-round pick out of Baylor, was listed as the starting right tackle.
To say the Browns are off script with this choice would be an understatement. The plan was for third-round draft pick Shon Coleman to come into camp and battle veterans Austin Pasztor and Alvin Bailey for the starting right tackle position.
Drango was supposed to battle John Greco for the right guard position and serve as the swing interior offensive linemen. At least this was how it was supposed to happen when it was all planned out after draft day.
But then a funny thing happened. The Browns put on pads and decided to let the best man win.
The fact that Drango is the No. 1 right tackle does not necessarily mean he is the best man. It means that Drango has brought a level of physicality and understanding of the playbook that has placed him above the competition – for now.
“I think he has a bright future here, but as I said to all of you guys, we’re still going to continue to search and find the best five linemen up there for our football team.” – Hue Jackson on Spencer Drango
Drango was taking first-team reps with the offense on Saturday at the Orange and Brown Scrimmage. At practice on Monday, Pasztor was taking the first-team reps, while Bailey was taking reps at guard behind Greco.
Coleman, who left practice Tuesday with heat cramps, has yet to make his presence known. He has been hampered by injuries since before the draft, which caused him to miss all of OTAs and the first week of training camp.
Pasztor is the most experienced of the candidates at right tackle as he spent a year in Jacksonville as the starting right tackle for the Jaguars.
Bailey was a pick-up in free agency from the Seattle Seahawks and his most natural position is at guard. He only moved out to tackle as a swing lineman for the Seahawks when Russel Okung was injured. Bailey was the early favorite coming into camp given how offensive line coach Hal Hunter gushed over his play in OTAs.
Then there is Drango, who was originally asked by the staff to work at guard. Then when it became apparent that Coleman was not ready, Drango started taking reps at tackle, which is his natural position. As OTAs progress he continued to get more reps at tackle, and then when training camp came along and the pads were put on, he was named the starter on the first depth chart.
Which all goes to show that a position battle in training camp is much like a round of golf. Some players come out and take an early lead, others come on strong in the middle, but it is the final holes that will determine it all.
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Fact is, any one of these four players still have time to make their case to be the starting right tackle, and all have their positives and negatives. But in the end, it will be up to Hunter to figure out which guys makes sense for the Browns come Week 1 against the Philadelphia Eagles.
The old saying about quarterbacks applies now to linemen. If you have four right tackles, then you don’t have one. The Browns are not set at right tackle, and letting them duke it out on the field is the best way to let it play out. Hopefully someone will emerge as the leader.
Until one emerges, however, expect to see all four, when healthy, taking reps at right and left tackle. Besides finding a starter, the Browns also have to find a tackle that will serve as a swing player at the position during the season.
It is position battles like this that make this Browns training camp fun. It would be easy to simply default to a veteran or rookie. Instead, the Browns are taking the long road and letting the players figure it out on the field and in the classroom.
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Regardless of who wins the battle, the Browns will be better off for taking the road less travelled by holding a true competition.