Browns general manager John Dorsey made a bold decision to try and “get by” with the offensive line in 2019. The high cost of that choice has been on full display at the bye week. Let’s be fair – anytime you can acquire a premium wide receiver and pass rusher for an interior lineman, you take a shot. Guard Kevin Zeitler would be an obvious upgrade, but his absence is not the reason Baker Mayfield is suddenly shy in the pocket. This grade reflects the line through six games, as Freddie Kitchens prepares to shuffle the left tackle and right guard spots this week.
Greg Robinson: D+
As Mary Kay Cabot reported last week, the former 2nd overall bust has likely already been benched, and it’s easy to see if you look beneath the surface. According to Pro Football Focus, he’s only surrendered one sack, but he’s committed five costly penalties. One of them, if you remember, set the offense back on their attempted 4th quarter drive in Week 6. The coaching staff, along with Dorsey, are also not happy with his lack of effort and preparation at the bye, which explains the benching.
Joel Bitonio: A-
Other than getting beat by Nick Bosa a couple of times, Bitonio has been his Pro Bowl-self. He grades out at 81.4 with two sacks given up on PFF and only one penalty. Staying healthy, Bitonio has proven to be a rock on an otherwise disjointed offensive line, as well as a leader in the locker room.
JC Tretter: A-
Tretter might be the most valuable player outside of Baker Mayfield right now, considering how depleted the line would be without him. Allowing zero sacks with two penalties and playing every snap, Tretter is a warrior in the middle. During Chubb’s monster day in Baltimore, he could be seen blocking linebackers at the second level, a great sign from your center.
Eric Kush: C
Known as a better pass blocker than run blocker, Kush has performed about as much as you’d expect for a 30-year old journeyman guard. He does grade lowest among Browns starting linemen on PFF (48.0), but Kush has hardly surprised anyone. He has looked great at times as a pulling guard in Baltimore on the shovel pass to Jarvis Landry and most recently against Seattle on the opening Chubb TD run. However, he is also rumored to be benched for run mauler Wyatt Teller in week 8.
Chris Hubbard: C-
It would be difficult to say Hubbard has lived up to his 5 year/$36.5 million contract, although he was a career backup in Pittsburgh. Like Robinson, he has five penalties in 2019, with two sacks surrendered according to PFF. He’s had bright spots, like his return from injury in Baltimore. Overall, Hubbard seems to struggle against the speed rush, lacking the athleticism to stabilize the edge. Unlike Robinson, Hubbard doesn’t seem to be lacking in character or effort, explaining the benching of the left tackle.
Offensive Line Unit Grade: C
In football, the offensive line is most required to play as one. Expecting to throw together a makeshift front five and find success was perhaps the first mistake by the personnel and coaching staff. It’s evident that the plan was to plug the number 33 overall pick, Austin Corbett, into the empty guard spot, a position mind you, that he never played in college for four years. That didn’t work out, so Kitchens was forced to resort to journeymen. However, the line has performed well enough to bring Nick Chubb to the top-five in yardage and touchdowns so far, as well as keeping Mayfield sack-free against the Seahawks. Most of its problems arise from poor coaching and game planning decisions. The looming changes will hopefully be for better and that means gearing towards the run game until Mayfield gets back on track.