O-Line Expected to be Strong

This is the fifth part in a position-by-position breakdown of the Browns roster heading into training camp, which begins July 26.

The Browns went to great lengths and expense to make sure that they didn’t lost Alex Mack during free agency. After tagging him as a transition player, Mack received a contract offer from the Jaguars that the Browns chose to match quickly, making him the highest paid center in the NFL. Mack, along with Joe Thomas, are the cornerstones of the offensive line.

The Browns used the 35th overall pick in the past NFL Draft to select Joel Bitonio. He is expected to immediately start at one of the guard spots. Returning veterans, John Greco, Jason Pinkston, Garrett Gilkey, along with unrestricted free agent signee Paul McQuistan are expected to battle for the starting guard spots.

Mitchell Schwartz returns as the right tackle but will be pushed by Martin Wallace, McQuistan and Chris Faulk for the job.

Offensive Linemen: (Alex Mack, Jeremiah Warren, Jason Pinkston, Keavon Milton, Martin Wallace, Garrett Gilkey, Alex Parsons, Randall Harris, Chris Faulk, Mitchell Schwartz, Joe Thomas, Paul McQuistan, Joel Bitonio, John Greco, Reid Fragel )

#55 Alex Mack (6-4, 311, 28, 6th year, California) – Browns matched the transition tag offer Mack received from the Jaguars within hours of the offer to make him the highest paid center in the NFL. Mack is coming off his second Pro Bowl season and the Browns paid a steep price to keep him in Cleveland.

#61 Jeremiah Warren (6-3, 325, 26, 1st year, South Florida) – Spent time on the Browns practice squad in 2013 and will battle for a roster spot or the practice squad.

#62 Jason Pinkston (6-4, 310, 26, 4th year, Pitt) – Pinkston started his first 22 games in the NFL for the Browns until he developed a blood clot in his lung which sidelined him for the rest of the 2012 season. Pinkston returned in 2013, but played in just three games with two starts. Pinkston now has a new coaching staff to try and impress and will try to retain a roster spot.

#63 Keavon Milton (6-4, 293, 24, 2nd year, Louisiana-Monroe) – Milton is a converted tight end who was on the Browns roster for most of the 2013 season. He appeared in eight games.

#64 Martin Wallace (6-6, 305, 24, 2nd year, Temple) – The Browns kept Wallace on the active roster all season in 2013. He was inactive for the first 15 games and was active for the final game. Wallace was running with the first team at left tackle during minicamp when Joe Thomas was rested.

#65 Garrett Gilkey (6-6, 315, 24, 2nd year, Chadron St.)—Gilkey was drafted in the seventh round in 2013 and viewed as a developmental player. He worked with the first unit at guard when Joel Bitonio was unable to go in the June minicamp. Gilkey appeared in six games as a rookie, including one start.

#66 Alex Parsons (6-4, 301, 26, 2nd year, USC) – Claimed off waivers and is expected to compete for a roster spot.

#68 Nick McDonald (6-4, 305, 26, 3rd year, Grand Valley St.) – The Browns claimed McDonald off waivers just prior to training camp. He has spent time with the Packers, Patriots and Chargers with three starts at guard and center.

#69 Randall Harris (6-3, 296, 22, Rookie, Towson St.) – Harris will try to make the team or practice squad as an undrafted rookie free agent.

#70 Chris Faulk (6-6, 317, 24, 2nd year, LSU) – Faulk spent the 2013 season on the Non-football injury/Reserve list recovering from a torn ACL suffered in his final season LSU. Faulk was considered a possible top 10 draft pick prior to his injury. He is expected to compete for a guard spot or possible at right tackle.

#72 Mitchell Schwartz (6-5, 320, 25, 3rd year, California) – Schwartz has started all 32 games at right tackle since he was drafted by the Browns and is expected to continue there if he can hold off the competitors in training camp.

#73 Joe Thomas (6-6, 312, 29, 8th year, Wisconsin) – Thomas has played every snap since joining the Browns. He also has earned a trip to the Pro Bowl after every season. Thomas, along with Mack are expected to anchor the offensive line once again.

#74 Paul McQuistan (6-6, 315, 31, 9th year, Weber St.) – Signed as an unrestricted free agent from the Seahawks, McQuistan is expected to back up most positions on the line if he doesn’t win a starting job.

#75 Joel Bitonio (6-4, 305, 22, Rookie, Nevada) – The Browns drafted Bitonio at the top of the second round (35th overall) with the expectation he will be a starter at one of the guard spots. Bitonio suffered a high ankle sprain in the OTAs but is expected to be ready for the start of training camp.

#77 John Greco (6-4, 318, 29, 7th year, Toledo) – Greco started 13 games at left guard and one at right guard in 2013 and was used at right guard in OTAs before Bitonio was injured. Greco is expected to start at one of the guard spots.

#78 Reid Fragel (6-8, 308, 23, 2nd year, Ohio St.) – Signed off the Bengals practice squad, Fragel was inactive for the rest of the 2013 season on the Browns roster, except for the season finale when he was active but did not play.

Summary: The Browns have been on record as saying they want to have a power running game in 2014 as their rushing attack in 2013 was one of the worst in the NFL averaging just 86 yards a game.

Thomas is the stalwart on the line with Mack along side. By drafting Bitonio and re-signing Mack, the Browns showed how much of a priority they have made on the offensive line. The Browns have a lot of depth on the line with veterans Schwartz, Greco, McQuistan, Pinkston and Gilkey—all having started games at the NFL level.

The Browns offensive production will be as effective as their offensive line play is.

(Next: Defensive Line)

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