Spencer Drango has been a solid stop-gap so far

CLEVELAND, OH - AUGUST 18: Quarterback Robert Griffin III
CLEVELAND, OH - AUGUST 18: Quarterback Robert Griffin III /

The Cleveland Browns miss Joe Thomas at left tackle. In his absence second-year lineman Spencer Drango has been a solid stop-gap.

When the Cleveland Browns hired offensive line coach Bob Wylie, they knew they were getting a man well-versed in magic tricks. What they did not know was that he could perform magic with offensive linemen as well.

Don’t think so? Wylie’s work with Spencer Drango these past two games has been nothing short of magic.

When Drango entered the game against the Tennessee Titans after Joe Thomas went down with an injury, Drango’s play demonstrated why the Browns decided to sign a free agent instead of starting him at right guard.

Against Tennessee, he struggled in pass protection, gave up sacks on speed rushes as well as being overpowered in bull rushes. In the run game he consistently failed to capture his man on zone plays or seal his man on power plays. In short, he looked like a fish out of water.

His performance was so bad, that during my appearance on the Dawg Pound Daily podcast that week, I suggested that the Browns would essentially have to carry Drango as deadweight against the Minnesota Vikings that upcoming week.

But to the surprise of Browns fans everywhere, Drango was able to shore up his technique before heading to London. How he progressed so much in so little time is a testament to the magician Wylie. Although he may have gotten some help from Thomas as well.

Either way, in London Drango was able to keep the Vikings off of Browns quarterback DeShone Kizer for most of the game. Admittedly Drango got some help from his running back and tight end friends along the way. Yet, his stance and technique had improved greatly from week one to week two of his playing time.

Which leads us to an analysis of last week’s game against the Detroit Lions. Last week was the third game that opponents will have on film of Drango. This means teams will come to understand his strengths and weaknesses a lot better.

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Against Detroit, Drango did an adequate job filling in for Thomas. When filling in for Thomas, adequate is a win for the Browns.

Drango has the intellectual side of the game figured out. If there is a major strength it is his ability to understand his play, his opponent’s play and what the opponent is trying to do to him. He does a good job of recognizing stunts and games from defensive linemen. He communicates well with guard Joel Bitonio to switch assignments to protect the quarterback. With these skills at his disposal, he has filled in nicely.

However good he is as a fill in left tackle, Drango is not the longterm answer at the position should Thomas retire (knock on wood). Although Drango understands what is going on around him, he lacks the athletic prowess to succeed at the position long term.

His main issue is quickness. Drango struggles in situations in the run and the pass in which he is asked to use quickness as a way of getting his block. On speed pass rushes, he can be beat around the corner to the quarterback and give up pressure, hits or sacks. He seems to know what is going on and how to stop it, but lacks the athleticism of a left tackle to execute it.

In the run game, he struggles  to get blocks downfield, often finding himself either out of position or easily side-stepped due to poor balance or angles.

To the Browns credit, they seem to understand this limitation in Drango’s game. They do not ask him to double team up to a linebacker too often and they run plays away from him. By running plays to the right, behind right tackle Shon Coleman, the Browns are minimizing Drango’s weakness in zone runs and power runs.

Conversely, they are putting him in good positions to contribute by giving him blocks that he can execute. He will execute backside cut off blocks and quick sets as a way of sealing off the backside rush on a running play. He will also be given help to slow down a speedy defender by keeping tight ends in to block (although at the expense of Kizer’s ribs).

Next: Zach Banner showing potential at tackle

By putting Drango in a position to succeed, the Browns have transformed a misshapen piece into a serviceable stop-gap. However, longterm, the Browns will need Thomas back or, if he retires, they need to get a longterm solution on the roster quickly. Drango’s limitations will hurt the Browns on offense eventually.

Until then, give credit to Wylie for turning Drango into a serviceable stop-gap left tackle, it truly is magic.