CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Browns had the same five starters along the offensive line for the second half of the 2018 season, and four players started all 16 games in the trenches, whether it meant playing through pain or not.
Browns left guard Joel Bitonio, center JC Tretter, right guard Kevin Zeitler and right tackle Chris Hubbard were 16-game starters in 2018, and Tretter played through much of the second half of the season with a high-ankle sprain that required him to wear a walking boot in the weeks leading up to games.
But through an offseason trade with the New York Giants, the Browns’ front five is going to look a lot different, as Zeitler is no longer on the roster, which means there will be plenty of competition through training camp for that fifth starting spot.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
In just eight starts, Greg Robinson showed enough production for the Browns to waive the very person who started the first half of the season as the blindside blocker, Desmond Harrison, after he missed a flight and was late to mandatory minicamp last month.
A former No. 2 overall pick in the NFL Draft, Robinson made eight starts for the Browns, and helped the team to a 5-3 record under the direction of an interim coach, Gregg Williams, and first-time offensive coordinator, Freddie Kitchens.
Robinson re-signed with the Browns back in February of 2019, weeks ahead of his being able to test the free-agent market at the start of the new league year in March.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Guard Austin Corbett
The Browns expected Corbett to be a key player along the offensive line early in his career, and despite playing in a reserve role in his first season, he figures to be a more prominent blocker in 2019.
With Zeitler being dealt to the Giants for defensive end Olivier Vernon back in March, the Browns have a spot to fill along their offensive line, and Corbett is doing what he can during the offseason program to earn playing time.
“Their belief in me, it does mean a lot,” Corbett said at the Cleveland Browns Foundation Golf Tournament back in May. “They are trusting me and opening up this spot for me.
“Now, I just have to go and show and prove them right, that this is why they drafted me. I’ve got to go make it happen. It’s all on me. There’s no one else. If I don’t get the starting job, it’s my fault I didn’t do well, and if I do, that means I’m stepping up and I’ve got to keep showing them that.”
Initially after hearing about the trade, Corbett was conflicted because ‘a good friend’ would no longer be suiting up beside him, but also, there was the understanding that this was his time to show the Browns their faith in him was well placed.
“I think it’s kind of weird in the sense of you find out it’s a business,” Corbett said. “But then, it turned into, ‘There’s a spot open. I’ve got a chance to go win this.’
“Freddie and (GM John) Dorsey have been real clear that it’s not going to be given to me by any means. That’s not who I am. That’s not who I want to be. I don’t want to be given anything in life, and so, it’s a really great opportunity to go earn a starting position in the National Football League.”