2019 Cleveland Browns 10 important players: Austin Corbett

    The Cleveland Browns are looking to keep the NFL spotlight on Cleveland. We finally get to see football as training camps start this week. I continue the ten most important players for the 2019 Cleveland Browns as I head into the trenches.

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    The wait is over! The Cleveland Browns start training camp this week in what is the most anticipated season for the Browns since they came back to Cleveland in 1999.

    The Browns won the offseason, but the team will have to prove it on the field.

    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 

    For the No.7 Cleveland Browns’ most crucial player in 2019, I head to the interior of the offensive line, where I find guard Austin Corbett.

    The 2018 NFL Draft

    The Cleveland Browns hoped to end their issues at the offensive tackle position by selecting University of Nevada tackle Austin Corbett with the 33rd pick of the 2018 NFL Draft.

    Austin Corbett played guard then took over at left tackle at Nevada for current Brown guard Joel Bitonio. Most scouts visualize Corbett to be kicked inside in the NFL; he projects more to guard at the NFL level. They did not believe that he has the length to manage edge rushers.

    NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein believes Corbett has “above average football intelligence.” He “makes assignment adjustments quickly when faced with late, pre-snap movement by defenders.” However, Corbett’s use of his weight and “core strength needs work.”

    General manager John Dorsey loved his positional versatility. However, he still believes that Corbett would be able to compete for the left tackle position with the likes of Shon Coleman, Spencer Drango, and Donald Stephenson. They were confident that Corbett could take over for the future Hall of Famer Joe Thomas.

    Ominous Rookie Season

    Corbett entered training camp in his rookie season battling to replace Joe Thomas with  Shon Coleman, who was soon traded to the 49ers. The Browns even contemplated moving Joel Bitonio out to left tackle. However, Corbett failed to live up to his expectations, especially following the rise of fellow rookie Desmond Harrison to a starter. Corbett became a versatile backup lineman.

    Corbett was relegated to backup center behind starter JC Tretter. It’s a discouraging beginning for the second-rounder from Nevada, who could not win a starting job over the summer.

    Corbett did not receive much playing time while starting only one game during the 2018 season. He wasn’t even active for most of the season. During the 2018 season, the team realized that Corbett could not play tackle in the NFL, and the b-word was associated with Austin Corbett. Yes, Corbett could be a bust.

    Browns trade creates an opening on the offensive line

    The Cleveland Browns traded one of the best guards in the NFL in Kevin Zeitler and pick 155 in the 2019 NFL Draft to the New York Giants for pass rusher Olivier Vernon and pick 132.

    The trade would significantly improve a weak pass rush but was it worth breaking up one of the best offensive lines in the NFL?

    Kevin Zeitler was extremely durable, starting every game for the past four seasons and has not missed a game since 2014. He received the highest pass-blocking grade for a guard at 91.7, according to Pro Football Focus.

    He was instrumental in keeping the pocket clean for franchise quarterback Baker Mayfield. Here is praying that Corbett can hold his own to keep Mayfield in one piece.

    Suddenly, there is an opening on the offensive line at right guard. John Dorsey believes that Austin Corbett will be up to the task in taking over for Kevin Zeitler:

    “The organization selected Austin Corbett at 33rd overall for a reason — because we feel he’s a good football player,” Dorsey said. “By no means do you anoint him right now, but you go into training camp and compete. At the end of the day, I’m sure [coach] Freddie [Kitchens] is going to put the five best offensive linemen out there on the field. Austin has done a really nice job.”

    Of course, the Browns will not just hand Corbett the starting right guard job. However, he is almost prematurely anointed to fill the enormous shoes of Kevin Zeitler.

    After a dismal rookie season, he figures to be one of the most prominent players for the Cleveland Browns as they attempt to live up to all of the preseason hype.

    Corbett competing for the right guard spot

    This training camp will be significant for Corbett, as he needs to show substantial development since last season. He has a ton of work to do to be a starting offensive lineman for the 2019 Cleveland Browns, and he is well aware:

    “Their belief in me, it does mean a lot,” Corbett said at the Cleveland Browns Foundation Golf Tournament back in May. “They are trusting me and opening up this spot for me.

    “Now, I just have to go and show and prove them right, that this is why they drafted me. I’ve got to go make it happen. It’s all on me. There’s no one else. If I don’t get the starting job, it’s my fault I didn’t do well, and if I do, that means I’m stepping up and I’ve got to keep showing them that.”

    The entire organization will focus on what happens at right guard. When Dorsey traded Zeitler, he had his second-round pick in mind to take over immediately.

    Corbett has registered just 14 NFL snaps, but every intention is for the second-year guard to take over at right guard on a Cleveland Browns team filled with playoff aspirations.

    Shockingly, Corbett didn’t even crack the first team in OTAs. He spent most of his time at both guard and tackle and surprisingly saw practice time as the third-string left tackle.

    He has even potentially fallen behind the unexpected Kyle Kalis, who was an undrafted free agent last season, based on volume with the starters.

    The Browns are concerned that they might have a bust in Austin Corbett. However, the Browns could be splitting up reps through the camp now. On the other hand, training camp playing times could present a whole different aspect of this competition.

    What does all of this mean?

    The 2018 Browns offensive line only allowed five sacks from Weeks 9-17 and finished near the top of the Pro Football Focus’ 2018 rankings.

    However, with the absence of Kevin Zeitler and the still uncertainty at the right guard position, Pro Football Focus ranked the Browns offensive line as the 20th best in their preseason ranking.

    The progress of Austin Corbett as an NFL-caliber starting right guard is monumental to the Cleveland Browns success in 2019.

    Their offensive success will go as far as the offensive line protects Baker and opens holes for rookie sensation Nick Chubb.

    Head coach Freddie Kitchens and offensive coordinator Todd Monken will need to design plays and pass protections that will allow Mayfield to achieve similar offensive success to last season.

    The old football adage is that teams win in the trenches. If Austin Corbett and the rest of the offensive line do not regularly win this season, all of the publicity will mean zero.

    Dennis Sosic is a writer for PFN covering the Cleveland Browns. You can follow him @CALL_ME_SOS on Twitter. 

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