2019 Cleveland Browns 10 important players: Greg Robinson

The dramatic turnaround of the Cleveland Browns into a playoff contender is one of the fascinating storylines for the 2019 NFL season. As I continue breaking down the most important Cleveland Browns players in 2019, we head to the offensive line where we find left tackle Greg Robinson.

One of the most compelling storylines of the 2019 NFL season is the climb of the Cleveland Browns into a contending playoff team.

As I continue the 2019 ten most important players for the Cleveland Browns, let’s review who has made this list:

10. Defensive end Olivier Vernon

9. Defensive Tackle Sheldon Richardson

8. Tight End David Njoku 

7. Guard Austin Corbett

6. Cornerback Denzel Ward

The Cleveland Browns made some dramatic moves this offseason but one position that they did not seek to improve was at left tackle.

At the fifth spot of the essential Cleveland Browns players in 2019, we find the blindside protector to Baker Mayfield, left tackle Greg Robinson.

The 2014 NFL Draft

The St. Louis Rams owned the No.2 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft due to the trade made by the Washington Redskins so they could select quarterback Robert Griffin III in the 2012 NFL Draft.

The Rams had a huge hole at left tackle after Jake Long tore his ACL at the end of the 2013 season. His return was not guaranteed and left the Rams desperate to upgrade the offensive line to protect then quarterback Sam Bradford.

The Rams believed that they had to select a top prospect available to be the franchise left tackle. They bypassed the exciting prospect Khalil Mack, and selected Auburn offensive tackle Greg Robinson with the second overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.

Robinson flops with the Rams

Robinson spent the first half of his first NFL season moving inside and playing left guard for the first time in his football career. When Jake Long went down again with a torn ACL, he was moved back to his natural position at left tackle. He developed slowly but showed flashes of the talent that the Rams believed would make Robinson an elite left tackle.

The former Auburn Tiger never lived up to the superb expectations that surround a No.2 overall selection. After three disappointing seasons with the Rams, Robinson was replaced in free agency by stud left tackle Andrew Whitworth.

The Rams tried to move Robinson back inside to guard, but when the experiment failed again, the Rams traded him to the Detroit Lions in 2017 for a sixth-round draft selection.

The Rams trades Robinson to the Detroit Lions

An ankle injury limited Robinson to six games with the Detroit Lions during the 2017 season. The Lions decided not to re-sign Robinson after the season ended.

No one signed the former first-round pick until the Cleveland Browns signed Robinson in the middle of June after their 2018 offseason program and minicamps ended.

The Browns take a chance on Greg Robinson

The Cleveland Browns were in panic mode to replace future Hall of Famer left tackle Joe Thomas after he retired in March 2018 with 10 Pro Bowl seasons with the Browns.

They experimented with 2018 second-round selection Austin Corbett at left guard and using Joel Bitonio at left tackle. Unfortunately, that experiment failed. Bitonio went back to left guard and earned a Pro Bowl nod, but Corbett couldn’t crack the starting lineup.

The Browns awarded undrafted free agent Desmond Harrison the starting left tackle job after the failed Joel Bitonio experiment. The decision to start Harrison was laughable, and he was mercifully removed after eight weeks at the position.

Robinson solidifies the Browns left tackle position in 2018

After eight games in the 2018 NFL season, there was a changing in the guard in Cleveland. Head coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley were let go. Interim offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens adjusted the protection schemes and started calling plays designed to get the ball out of Baker Mayfield’s hands quicker.

Kitchens also adjusted the starting offensive line. He decided to give veteran Greg Robinson an opportunity at left tackle and sent Harrison to the bench.

The entire offensive line improved dramatically due to the switch from Harrison to Robinson at left tackle. In the first eight games of 2018, the offensive line surrendered 33 sacks. The line allowed just five sacks in the final eight games.

Robinson resurrected his career in 2018 with the Browns and while protecting franchise quarterback Baker Mayfield by only allowing one sack in his eight starts. With limited pressure, Baker exploded in his rookie season, throwing for 3,725 yards, 27 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions in 14 games.

Robinson and the offensive line also helped rookie running back Nick Chubb finish with a team rookie rushing record 996 yards.

Everything was not all peaches and cream for Robinson last season though. He was called for ten holding penalties and ranked only 60th in Pro Football Focus’ pass-blocking efficiency metric.

Greg Robinson played well enough to earn himself a one-year seven million contract over the offseason. The Browns seem satisfied with Robinson as their starting left tackle for the 2019 season.

The 2019 season of expectations

Even with the solid play of Robinson in the second half of last season, the Browns opened up 2019 offseason workouts with a competition for the starting left tackle job. Desmond Harrison was to compete with Robinson to help protect Mayfield. Unfortunately, Harrison couldn’t show up on time for team events among other issues and was waived by the Cleveland Browns in June.

Browns’ general manager John Dorsey made a gigantic trade this past offseason in trading elite guard Kevin Zeitler to the New York Giants and breaking up the cornerstone of the Cleveland Browns offense which was their offensive line. Zeitler will be replaced by Austin Corbett who played only 14 offensive snaps in his rookie season.

Robinson will need to perform better than last season if the Browns want to compete for the AFC North division title. The blindside protection of Baker Mayfield is essential in the growth and maturation of Mayfield and the entire Browns offense.

I contemplated placing Robinson in the top five most essential Browns players in 2019 list. Greg Robinson is projected to start the 2019 season as the starting left tackle for the Cleveland Browns.

However, with over $34 million in cap space to work with, the Browns have plenty of room to carry an extreme cap hit. The Browns have a playoff roster, but there are still concerns if Robinson can even sustain the level that he played in 2018, let alone improve.

There is an opportunity to improve the offensive line by trading for disgruntled veteran Washington Redskins left tackle Trent Williams. Williams has made seven consecutive trips to the Pro Bowl and is recognized as one of the best-left tackles in the league.

Every NFL quarterback can put up incredible stats when they are protected and not facing pressure. Baker was a prime example last season, especially during the second half.

The Browns need to find a way to obtain Williams or even find more competition at the position. While I applaud Greg Robinson in helping solidify the offensive line last season, there are concerns that he can reach those levels in the 2019 season.

The offensive line is one of the most compelling storylines for the Cleveland Browns as the hysteria might not live beyond the success or lack thereof of the guys in the trenches.

 

Dennis Sosic is a writer for PFN covering the Cleveland Browns. He is also a co-host of the AFC North & Goal Podcast for PFN’s Podcast Network. You can follow him @CALL_ME_SOS on Twitter.

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