Assessing the Cleveland Browns roster as we head to training camp, with a position-by-position rundown comparing it to when the season ended and now.
Any group that starts with an excellent left tackle, an excellent center, an underrated right tackle and a highly regarded draft pick has something going for it. That’s exactly where the Browns stand on the offensive front. Which is a good start. But then add in the knowledge that the Browns will be running a zone blocking scheme that requires athleticism and the ability to move along with smarts and the Browns up-front unit looks better. If Bitonio comes through as the Browns hope, it would be huge. He could make a large impact as a rookie whose style and attributes bring to mind Logan Mankins of the New England Patriots. However, he ended the offseason with an ankle injury that forced him to miss minicamp. His health early in camp is worth watching. Some question the right side of the Browns line, but the previous regime felt good enough about Greco to give him a contract extension and about Schwartz to make him an immediate starter. That pairing might be better than folks think. In Gilkey and McQuistan the Browns have depth and flexibility if injuries should affect the line.
The positives: Thomas is as good as they come. He’s so good that one offensive line guru said when evaluating him none of the standard judgments apply because he’s that good. Mack is expensive, but very talented, and the line seems to be a good fit for the zone blocking scheme that Kyle Shanahan will run.
The negatives: Bitonio is a rookie who is unproven. As highly as people think of him, he still has to do it. As encouraging as the signs are about adapting to the new system, the line still has to do it, and it will take some time.
Upgraded, level or downgraded: Upgraded, especially if Bitonio is all he is touted to be.
Coming: Defensive line, linebacker, secondary, coaching staff, front office.