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Browns Show Desperation by Moving Bitonio to Left Tackle, and That’s Okay

It was never going to be easy to replace Joe Thomas. Replacing a Hall of Famer was never going to be. And so, the 33-year-old’s departure from football obviously left a massive void along the Browns offensive line. One that became a top priority for the Browns to fill this offseason.

They tried. In March they signed former Steeler tackle Chris Hubbard. Hubbard primarily played right tackle, which is where he’s found himself throughout training camp, but his presence freed up Shon Coleman to make a make the move to left tackle after taking some reps there when Thomas went down last season.

In April, the drafted versatile Nevada product Austin Corbett in the second round. Then in June, they took a flier on former No. 2 overall pick Greg Robinson. Robinson was waived by the Lions last November and his early career can best be described as a bust.

That was the gist of the Browns left tackle depth chart when camp go started last week, minus Robinson who began camp hurt. That has left the Browns scrambling for an answer, which they apparently found in the unselfishness of starting left guard Joel Bitonio. Earlier this summer, Bitonio said he’d be willing to shift one spot to his left along the O-line if asked. Offensive line coach Bob Wylie called that plan Z this past week. It quickly became plan A on Wednesday when head coach Hue Jackson revealed they’d start Bitonio at left tackle for the team’s first preseason game next week.

The fact that desperation set in so quickly is a bit surprising. One week into camp. One. That’s how long it took for the Browns to resort to their supposed “plan Z,” at left tackle.

It’s obvious this is not what Cleveland planned for when they began planning to replace Thomas. Regardless, it’s where they find themselves.

Truthfully, it’s the emergence of Corbett as more of a guard than a tackle that has made this possible. Through the first week of camp, the rookie has found a home in Bitonio’s usual spot at left guard.

Making this switch now also comes with the luxury of time. There is more than a month until the regular season. During that span, the Browns will play four preseason games, wrap up training camp and whittle the roster down to 53 players. That’s extremely valuable for Bitonio so that he can get comfortable with the position that he’s never played in the NFL. Even the four-year veteran admitted himself that he’ll almost feel like a rookie trying to learn the nuances of playing left tackle.

That time could also be used to identify a true left tackle. Perhaps Robinson will return and thrive, allowing Bitonio to then transition back to the position he knows best. That would be the ideal scenario.

In the meantime though, shifting Bitonio outside is worth a shot, especially in a year where the Browns are hoping to make immense strides following that infamous 0-16 season. It’s also a make it or break it year for Jackson, who begins the year on a scolding hot seat. Yes, it’s risky and yes it looks desperate – going straight to plan Z this early on. But without Thomas, desperate times call for desperate mesaures.

Follow: @Spencito_

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