The Browns were praised by many columnists far and wide for their off season work. They brought in a number of exciting skill players to reinvigorate their team. They drafted a franchise quarterback of the future and several impact rookies. But it’s the retirement of perennial All Pro and future first ballot Hall of Fame player, Joe Thomas.
How the Browns replace Thomas will be a huge story and the battle during in training camp will feature the guy I’ve picked as the Browns ‘one to watch’. The Browns have reported for camp and their first day of practice was July 26th. The starter at this point is Shon Coleman, but the player I expect to unseat him is a rookie, tackle Austin Corbett.
Lets start by getting a bit of background on Corbett. He was picked with the 33rd overall selection in this year’s draft. Whilst at Nevada he played mainly tackle, although he played several positions along the line. Listed as a tackle, there is a degree of concern from some that he does not have the length to hold up at tackle in the NFL. Long arms allow the offensive tackle to engage defenders without the defenders getting their hands on their body, allowing them to affect leverage.
I expect Corbett to see extensive work at left tackle during training camp. With several promising pass rushers on the Browns its likely the team will get a good feeling about Corbett’s ability to block out the top pass rushers in the league, something that Thomas did throughout his career.
With offensive lineman its often difficult for the casual fan to quantify the quality of a player. There aren’t the raft of stats for lineman as there are for skill players and defenders so production has to be based on what they do well (and how well their offences produce) as well as their tape.
Austin Corbett was ranked by Pro Football Focus as the eighth best offensive lineman in 2018’s NFL draft. The Nevada product played left tackle as a freshman in 2014. In his first season, he allowed all of 17 total pressures. Austin was a three year starter at tackle for Nevada but when he appeared at the Senior Bowl he saw time at both canter and guard. Corbett is a player who posses good technique that should get his chance to play early in his career.
Both his college coaches and NFL scouts have been impressed with Corbett’s football IQ and his kick slide is fluid. Anyone that had watched any of the Willie Anderson football camp videos will know how important this is. Anderson, a former Pro Bowl NFL tackle who runs a camp for offensive lineman. Anyone who doesn’t know his work can check out Willie Anderson’s camp video here.
Corbett poses good size at 6’4″, 306 lbs and has lateral ability that may allow the Browns to play him in an athletic role similar to Jason Peters for the Eagles. Reports differ on whether he is is a finesse player or posses the ‘mean streak’ that many coaches and scouts look for in their tackles.
Corbett will have to show that his average arm length for a tackle (33 ⅛”) and questionable strength (just 19 bench press reps at the combine) but will have plenty of time to work on his strength and shortcomings in camp. For all of the praise heaped on this off season the Browns season will be underwhelming again if they cannot protect the quarterback at left tackle. That’s why Austin Corbett is my Browns ‘one to watch’.
Photograph copyright Cleveland.com