Cleveland Browns: Is Cameron Erving leading the right tackle competition?

Joel W. Cade
Nov 20, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns center Cameron Erving (74) and guard John Greco (77) during the third quarter against the Pittsburgh Steelers at FirstEnergy Stadium. The Steelers won 24-9. Mandatory Credit: Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 20, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns center Cameron Erving (74) and guard John Greco (77) during the third quarter against the Pittsburgh Steelers at FirstEnergy Stadium. The Steelers won 24-9. Mandatory Credit: Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Cleveland Browns will head into training camp with a competition at right tackle. But has a leader emerged coming out of veteran minicamp?

The various coaches and coordinators for the Cleveland Browns met with the media on Thursday as the veteran minicamp came to a close. Among those speaking was offensive line coach Bob Wylie.

Wylie is a new addition to the staff, which is significant because it allows every player in the room to have a fresh start. No player needs a fresh start more than Cameron Erving.

Over the past two seasons, Erving has played center, both guard positions and right tackle. Although he has been a jack of many trades, he has yet to master one. But this season may change all of that as he will be primarily focusing on the right tackle position.

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Also focusing on right tackle is second-year lineman Shon Coleman, who spent most of last year’s training camp recovering from a knee injury. When he did get into the action, it was clear the simplified spread offense he played in at Auburn did little to prepare him for the challenges of the NFL.

Both Erving and Coleman played right tackle during Cleveland’s Week 17 loss against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Erving played exceptionally well, but did allow a strip sack. Coleman played in a manner consistent with a rookie. He showed flashes of brilliance, particularly on a long run by Isaiah Crowell. But Coleman also demonstrated that his technique needed serious improvement. He played with a high pad level and his drops on pass protection need work.

So heading into this year’s training camp, it will be interesting to see who will emerge as the starter.

Which brings us full circle back to Wylie, who made an interesting comment when asked about the right tackle position, according to clevelandbrowns.com:

"They are competing. Matter of fact, they are all giving great effort. They compete in the weight room. They compete on the field. They compete in the classroom, which is a good thing, especially for the young guys. They are asking intelligent questions, which is good. They are seeing the field, which is even better. Sometimes, they see the whole field. Sometimes they don’t. They are doing a good job."

Competition seems to be the theme of Browns minicamp. Almost every member of the staff who spoke to the media praised the competitive level of the team. Wylie’s words here are a good insight into the competitive nature of the battle to start at right tackle.

But what he stated about the Browns investment in the offensive line gave a revealing insight into the right tackle competition.

"They drafted a first-round pick, and they got (OL) Joe Thomas on the other side. You try to solidify the edges of the defense. You don’t want them to get pushed from the inside. The center has to control everything. The center is like the quarterback before the quarterback gets into the huddle. He has to get everybody where they need to be, and when they need to be there, based off of what he sees in the coverages, based off of what he sees by linebacker alignments, defensive alignments, all of that stuff. He has to get everybody into the right spots. Getting those two guys to solidify the inside and not get the push, and signing Joel Bitonio back, I thought was a really smart move."

Here coach Wylie walks through each position detailing the investments the Browns have made in the offensive line and why. He highlights the importance of the center communicating and being the “quarterback” of the offensive line. He praises signing the guards as a smart move.

But it was his brief discussion of offensive tackle that is so revealing.

"They drafted a first-round pick, and they got (OL) Joe Thomas on the other side. You try to solidify the edges of the defense. You don’t want them to get pushed from the inside."

Wylie acknowledges the presence of Thomas as solidifying the position. But when talking about the other offensive tackle position he mentions a “first-round” pick. This could only be a reference to Erving.

Notice there is no mention of an investment in a third-round pick into the position. Yet, Coleman is clearly an investment in the position. Sometimes what is not said is just as revealing as what is said.

So either Wylie failed to mention Coleman as an oversight or Erving is starting to emerge, at least in Wylie’s mind, as the front-runner for the right tackle position.

Next: DeShone Kizer is not ready to start

Given the way Erving played against Pittsburgh in week 17, Erving should be the front-runner at right tackle heading into camp. But expect Coleman to get every opportunity to win the position.

For fans of the offensive line, Browns training camp will be exciting!

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