The Browns made big moves in regards to the offensive line this off-season. They brought in free agent guard Kevin Zeitler and center JC Tretter, while also signing Joel Bitonio to an extension. With those additions, Cleveland now has the most expensive offensive line in the NFL for 2017 at $49.1 million.
For now, this considerable increase in spending for their offensive line seems like a smart move. Pro Football Focus has the Browns’ line ranked as the 2nd best offensive line heading into next season. While we will have to wait and see if they can live up to these high preseason expectations, they should at the very least be an improvement over the rather lackluster 2016 offensive line.
Signing Zeitler and Tretter leaves right tackle as the last open starting spot on the line as we head into training camp, barring any injuries of course. This position battle is headlined by 3rd-year player Cam Erving and 2nd-year player Shon Coleman. There were flashes of brilliance by both players last season, but neither solidified their futures with the team with their play and will be looking to show some consistency heading forward.
Erving has been frustrating, to say the least for his first two seasons. The team hasn’t done him any favors by moving him around the line, but at the same time, he seems to get absolutely blown up by a defender or miss an assignment multiple times per game. Combine that with the injuries he has suffered and it leaves us with someone who’s running out of chances.
Erving was always seen as somewhat of a project coming out of Florida State. His athleticism was the reason he was drafted in the first round. At 6’6″ 311 pounds, he definitely has the size to play the position. His only start at right tackle in the NFL was their final game against the Steelers last season. Though, it is worth noting that was arguably his best position in college.
Coleman was a 3rd round draft choice out of Auburn in the 2016 NFL Draft. He suffered a knee injury in his final season at Auburn, which held him out of the Browns rookie camp, OTA’s and the first few days of training camp last year. His missed time from the injury contributed to his loss of the starting spot to Austin Pasztor. Coleman didn’t get to see the field much as the backup right tackle and the final game of the season was where he saw the vast majority of his snaps. With Pasztor now gone though, this leaves the position open for Coleman to move in.
So, who starts the season at right tackle?
Unfortunately, the Browns final game against the Steelers is the only film we really have of both these players at right tackle. So, it’s impossible to make a decision solely off a one game performance. Personally, Erving has pissed me off enough already and I’d rather see Coleman play. If you disregard a couple rookie mistakes, Coleman filled in pretty well with the few snaps he got. Plus, I don’t know how many more times I can watch Erving allow a defender to run passed him like he’s a matador. Though, I will say he was having one of his better games as a pro before he got hurt in their last game.
Whichever player ends up earning the starting spot will have a tough task ahead. A weak link on an offensive line can bring a whole offense down. Both players will need to play at the highest levels we’ve seen in order to be the future at the position for the team.
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