The Cleveland Browns’ offensive line in the season opener against the Tennessee Titans was bad. Against a defensive line that on paper should be good versus the New York Jets, however, they performed much better in Week Two. So which line will show up in Week Three?
Much of their offensive line has been built via free agency, even though they traded away their most significant acquisition, right guard Kevin Zeitler, in order to bolster their own defensive line with Olivier Vernon. In addition to J.C. Tretter, their starting tackles, Chris Hubbard and Greg Robinson, where also acquired from outside of the organization.
“The one thing that those guys will do is they will finish down the field”, Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens told reporters about his blockers up front. There was one notable play in particular this past week in which Tretter was able to get down the field for a big block late in a play.
“I was very impressed”, he went on. “Those are touchdown blocks of finishing down the field, securing the first level and reading up to their next level. They did an excellent job of that. To answer your question, I was very happy to see it”.
While they still allowed two sacks last week, that was a significant improvement from the six surrendered in the opener, and they are still working this group together, especially rookie starting right guard Eric Kush. Kush was able to win the job over 2018 34th-overall pick Austin Reiter, whom many presumed would move in to the starting lineup after Zeitler was traded.
Things will not get any easier in the next game, as they face the Los Angeles Rams, who have one of the best defensive lines in the NFL. That starts with MVP Aaron Donald, who was limited this week with a back injury. He might not be 100 percent. They also have Michael Brockers, and Clay Matthews and Dante Fowler coming off the edge as well. Fowler and Matthews each have two sacks this season already, and Brockers has one as well.
Though the Browns will be without David Njoku for a while with a broken wrist, the question about their offense was always about how the offensive line would hold up. They got the wide receivers. They put together a running back room, especially once they have Kareem Hunt. And they have Baker Mayfield under center.
If the offensive line can gel into a quality unit—they did over the course of the second half of the 2018 season, largely with the same personnel minus Zeitler—this could be legitimately one of the better offenses in the league.