Cleveland Browns legend Joe Thomas has brought up the possibility of making a significant swap on the offensive line in an effort to play into the running game’s strength against the Las Vegas Raiders.
If the Cleveland Browns were to utilize Blake Hance and a player like Alex Taylor, the team would be going with their fifth and sixth tackles relative to a depth chart. However, if they were to move Joel Bitonio to left tackle, they could put Michael Dunn at left guard and give them a better group in terms of raw talent.
That’s something that has at least been brought up by Joe Thomas on the team’s radio network
A lot of talk on #Browns Radio Network with Joe Thomas about Joel Bitonio potentially moving from left guard to left tackle vs. #Raiders. Would be fascinating. LT Jedrick Wills Jr. and RT James Hudson III are among 22 Cleveland players on COVID-19 list.
— Nate Ulrich (@ByNateUlrich) December 20, 2021
The hesitation with moving Bitonio in addition to the short notice comes down to the importance of the interior offensive line in this scheme. The Browns have shorter quarterbacks than most teams, so keeping their feet clean is critical. Additionally, they rely heavily on the guard position to key their running game.
Dunn came out of camp as arguably the sixth best lineman offensive lineman in the group, but he’s not built to play tackle, so putting him outside wasn’t realistic.
He’s played well in opportunities, which includes a Herculean effort in the wildcard game against the Pittsburgh Steelers and All-Pro defensive lineman Cameron Heyward.
So having an offensive line with Bitonio, Dunn, center J.C. Tretter and right guard Wyatt Teller definitely has an appeal. The Browns would then be choosing between Blake Hance and Alex Taylor at right tackle.
Bitonio may not play regularly play tackle, but he certainly knows how and has been effective at it. He’s also playing the best football of his career.
The benefit is chiefly in the running game, which the Browns will want to rely on heavily if they can, allowing Nick Chubb to carry the offense. The Raiders defense hasn’t fared well against the run and their biggest strength against the pass is also susceptible against the run.
Maxx Crosby is a fantastic player, but really thrives generating pressure.
He’s not a terrible run defender, but it is to the Raiders advantage for him to be rushing the passer as much as possible.
Yannick Ngakoue, meanwhile, can attack the quarterback, but struggles against the run. Potentially having the Browns able to run at him with Bitonio and Dunn leading the way or kicking him out with a pulling guard like Teller could pay dividends.
The forecast has wind gusts that could be up to 30mph, which is problematic on its own. Nick Mullens playing quarterback in this game is an added incentive to lean into the running game.
Perhaps it’s just being an idea thrown around, but given the importance of this game and what the Browns have at their disposal, it could be the best path to winning this game and keeping their playoff as well as divisional hopes alive.