Q: Who’s leading in the right guard camp battle based on what you’ve seen to date?
A: The three-man rotation has continued well into the second week, so nobody has grabbed the job. If I had to pick a leader, I’d go with Austin Corbett.
That choice is based on his draft status — No. 33 pick in 2018 — and the fact he worked with the starters the first day of camp. But none of the three candidates — Corbett, Kyle Kalis, Eric Kush — has looked great, especially with the defensive tackles too often finding their way into the backfield.
Q: Austin Corbett’s problem seems to be adjusting to the right side of the line. Are there any thoughts the best version of our offensive line might be Joel Bitonio and Corbett switching guard spots?
A: Don’t even think about it.
I understand where you’re coming from but I’m scarred after watching coach Hue Jackson try to use Bitonio at left tackle last preseason. Bitonio is one of the NFL’s best left guards and I’d hate to weaken his play by making him move.
If Corbett can’t learn to play right guard after an entire offseason and training camp, I’m not sure he’ll ever succeed in the NFL. It’s too soon to assume he won’t be able to make the switch to the right side, but it’s not too early to worry.
Q: How has Mack Wilson been doing? We hear all about Sione Takitaki but not much on No. 51.
A: Wilson made one of the best plays of camp Friday with a diving interception. Not only did he make the catch, he quickly got to his feet and headed the other way. Athleticism is Wilson’s calling card and was on full display during that snap.
He followed up with an interception Saturday off a deflection and had a batted ball.
The reason Takitaki has received so much coverage is he’s easily noticed on the field — for good and bad. Takitaki was too aggressive early in camp, made some big tackles when the pads came on, then missed some with the chance to make a play. Takitaki has been locked in with the second team, while Wilson has bounced between the second and third teams.
I could see Takitaki pushing for playing time on defense during the season, while Wilson seems more likely to be a key special teamer who could earn some time in coverage if he builds on the interceptions.
Q: Is there any concern of Genard Avery’s injury lingering into the season? I think he’ll be an important part of the pass rush.
— Jon H
A: When I started to answer this Saturday morning I had a different answer than I do now.
Unlike most of his injured teammates, Avery hadn’t been working on the side with the athletic training staff. He hadn’t even been spotted on the field since suffering the ankle injury. Those are red flags and reason to worry.
But Avery joined his injured teammates on the sideline Saturday afternoon during the Orange & Brown Scrimmage, a significant sign of progress. The regular season is more than a month away, so Avery has time to heal and seems headed in the right direction.
Q: I know Genard Avery has been dinged, but have you developed any impressions regarding his play so far? Haven’t really heard much about him.
A: Avery has missed out on a golden opportunity to earn more playing time. Starting defensive end Olivier Vernon (hamstring) and backup Chad Thomas (illness) missed time last week, and Avery likely would’ve taken snaps with the starters.
When he was on the field, what sticks out with Avery is that he’s an end, despite the team listing him as a linebacker. General manager John Dorsey mentioned him as a possible starting linebacker when Jamie Collins was cut, but he doesn’t fit in new coordinator Steve Wilks’ 4-2-5 formation that requires speed from the linebackers.
Q: We are hearing a lot about how Steve Wilks intends to extensively use the 4-2-5 alignment, which includes two undersized linebackers, and the starting cornerbacks have tackling issues. How concerned are you that we are still not going to be able to stop the run?
— Bob Reeves
A: It certainly has to be a concern, especially given the defense’s struggles last season, as it ranked 28th against the run with 135.2 yards allowed per game. But today’s NFL is all about stopping the pass, so the front four’s ability to rush the quarterback should alleviate some worry. The other part of the equation is the Browns should be playing with a lead, which lessens the importance of stopping the run.
In Wilks’ 4-2-5, the fifth defensive back is a third safety against two-tight end sets and a third corner against three receivers. When the opponent uses a fullback, he goes with three linebackers. No matter the personnel package, the Browns must tackle better, but I think the run defense will be fine. The coaching staff has run a physical camp and emphasized better technique. I also have confidence corners Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams will tackle well enough to stop the outside run.