The Cleveland Browns added two new interior offensive linemen during the 2017 free agency, but could see the best results from those signings this upcoming season.
Last off-season, the Cleveland Browns heavily invested in their offensive line when they signed right guard Kevin Zeitler and center J.C. Tretter. Although the Browns front office expected strong play from the two last season, they could see their play improve in 2018.
At the time of his signing, the Browns made Zeitler the highest-paid guard in the NFL when they signed him to a five-year, $60 million contract last off-season. They also signed Tretter to a three-year, $16.75 million contract, which was a large investment for the oft-injured center.
When the Browns signed the two, it was expected that they would instantly improve the offensive line. But the two had to get used to playing next to each other before their play could go to the next level.
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Even in their first year playing next to each other, they were not making plays that hurt the offense that often. Zeitler started all 16 games in 2017, and only committed three penalties and surrendered only 1.5 sacks, according to STATS.com.
Tretter also had a solid season, committing only two penalties and allowing only one sack, according to STATS.com. Tretter had the more difficult job, as he had to get used to making the offensive line calls while under a new offense and playing alongside guards he had never played with.
In 2018, Tretter will once again have to make the calls in a new offense. However, the communication will be easier for him to make as he will be used to communicating with Zeitler and left guard Joel Bitonio.
The biggest difference for Tretter and Zeitler could be the improvement in their run blocking. With a full season playing next to each other and another full off-season to work out the kinks, Tretter and Zeitler will know how each other handle combo blocks.
The Browns offensive line got a bad reputation last season because of the amount of sacks that were given up. But most of the sacks came from the play of the tackles, especially after Joe Thomas went down for the season with a triceps injury.
Although there are still concerns about who the left tackle will be, the right tackle position will get a big boost from Chris Hubbard. Not only did he have a solid season with the Steelers last season, but he knows Todd Haley’s offense. He will be comfortable with what is asked of the offensive linemen, and could even help the other linemen in the adjustment.
Tretter will be pushed for the starting center job, but his play was strong enough last season for him to have a great chance at keeping the starting job. Being able to play another season next to Zeitler and Bitonio should show why the Browns were comfortable giving him the contract they did.
Overall, the interior linemen will be the backbone of the Browns offensive line. Their play will look even better in 2018 having experience playing with each other and also having a veteran quarterback under center.