Jackson says changes still possible up front
With barely a week left until the season opens, Browns coach Hue Jackson is still tinkering with his offensive line.
Another shift could be coming.
During a conference call on Friday, Jackson raised the possibility that Joel Bitonio could be on the move again. The team slid him from left guard to tackle during training camp to fill the cavern created when perennial Pro Bowler Joe Thomas retired following last season.
Jackson said Cleveland’s line remains under construction just nine days before the Pittsburgh Steelers come to town.
“Everything is a little bit fluid over there, especially on the left side as we continue to move forward,” he said. “I am going to say this again, I am going to continue to put the best five guys out there.”
When camp opened, the Browns had Shon Coleman, who started 16 games at right tackle, lined up at left tackle. After line coach Bob Wylie said shifting Bitonio to left tackle was “Plan Z,” Jackson did it anyway and put rookie Austin Corbett at left guard.
That’s how the Browns played their first three exhibition games, and by all accounts Bitonio held his own at a position he hadn’t played since college. The reviews on Corbett, the No. 33 overall draft pick this year, were a little more mixed, and it’s possible the Browns aren’t satisfied with his progress.
“I think [Corbett] has done some good things,” Jackson said. “I have always said from Day 1 that we are going to play the best five guys. How that unfolds as we go through preseason and as we go through everything, we will make a decision about what we think is best.”
The Browns did make a line move on Friday, trading Coleman to the San Francisco 49ers for a seventh-round draft pick next season. Coleman was drafted in the third round by the Browns in 2016.
Undrafted rookie Desmond Harrison started at left tackle in Thursday’s exhibition finale at Detroit and Jackson said the 6-foot-6, 295-pounder could be in the mix. Harrison transferred from Texas and finished his college career at West Georgia.
“All of those avenues are open,” Jackson said. “I know we have seen Joel at left tackle and he has played it, and Corbett at left guard and Harrison at left tackle. When it is all said and done, my job is that we put the best five guys out there, and that is what we are going to do.”
Another option is former Arizona and Chicago lineman Earl Watford, who signed with the Browns earlier this week. Watford has appeared in 43 games, making 21 starts with the Cardinals.
Although things are unsettled up front, Jackson insists he’s not worried.
“I feel good about where we are, where we are headed, and the players who we have playing there,” he said. “I just want to make sure that we are not turning in the lineup cards today or to say who is starting or anything like that. I just want to make sure that it is a decision, when it is all said and done, that I am good with it all and that I am not going to change two days from now or three days from now.”
Cleveland began trimming its roster ahead of today’s deadline. The most notable cut was WR Jeff Janis, signed as a free agent in March after four years with Green Bay. Janis was passed by several of Cleveland’s young receivers. Also released was fourth-string QB Brogan Roback, who got some quality time on this season’s “Hard Knocks” series. ... Jackson said WR Josh Gordon will return to practice Monday. The former Pro Bowler missed the first three weeks of camp while receiving treatment in Florida connected to his drug and alcohol addictions. He’s been slowed by a hamstring injury since being cleared by the NFL to resume all activities.