Usually by the time the Browns pick offensive linemen in the draft it's the sixth or seventh round, so when they chose Isaac Sowells in the fourth round last month it was a bit of a shock, even though General Manager Phil Savage vowed to pick a lineman "early."
Sowells is the one player of the 10 drafted by the Browns that drew the most criticism, and in 2006 anyway the critics might look justified. But this is a pick for the future, according to Savage, not one expected to pay immediate dividends.
Sowells was a left tackle at Indiana. The Browns want him to play guard. Since right guard Cosey Coleman is in the final year of his contract it is assumed Sowells will play right guard, but since he played left tackle for three years in college it might be easier for him to play left guard. Joe Andruzzi, the current left guard, could move to the right side.
Since Andruzzi and Coleman both had injury problems last season Sowells will probably get work at both spots. However it works out, Savage and Coach Romeo Crennel expect Sowells to challenge for a starting job next season. As it is, all five starters on the offensive line were acquired through free agency.
"It's a little bit of pressure," Sowells said. "That's the nature of the business. But like they say, I don't have to come in the first year (and start). I can do the best I can and learn the offense to the best of my abilities."
The Browns were one of few teams that did not interview Sowells at the scouting combine in Indianapolis. Savage shrugged that off by saying he did not interview Braylon Edwards or Charlie Frye at the combine in 2005. Those players were drafted in the first and third round respectively, and now they are key components in the offense.
Sowells is 6-3, 325 pounds. As far as the Browns are concerned he's too short to play tackle, but they like his strength and believe he is a perfect fit for guard. They want him to concentrate on his footwork this year.
"He's a big, thick body in there and he looks the part," Crennel said. "So we have to work on his footwork...but probably with time, he'll be able to get it done."
Depth at guard is an issue, but a key player for the Browns is Bob Hallen. He was one of eight players signed in free agency. He didn't get the fanfare of LeCharles Bentley, Willie McGinest or some of the others, but Hallen is important because he can play all three interior positions.