Editor’s note: This is the third installment of a 12-part series in which Browns beat writer Nate Ulrich analyzes players who will vie for starting jobs or other important roles during training camp, which opens to the public July 25 in Berea.
BATTLES OF BEREA: GUARDS
Players to watch: John Greco (6-foot-4, 315 pounds, sixth year); Shawn Lauvao (6-3, 315, fourth year); and Jason Pinkston (6-4, 305, third year).
2012 stats: Greco (14 games played, including 10 starts at left guard); Lauvao (started all 16 games at right guard); Pinkston (started all six games at left guard before being placed on injured reserve with a blood clot in his lung).
Analysis: In one of the team’s most intriguing position battles, the three aforementioned players will compete for the two starting jobs. Lauvao and Pinkston were the starting guards in every game during the 2011 season and the first six games last year until a blood disorder cut Pinkston’s season short. Greco replaced Pinkston in the starting lineup, and his performances impressed the new coaching staff and front office so much that he actually appears to be the front-runner heading into camp. Greco, Lauvao and Pinkston, who returned to practice in May during organized team activities, rotated at both guard spots this spring. Greco spent the most time with the first-team offense this offseason, followed by Lauvao and then Pinkston. The scheme employed by new coach Rob Chudzinski and offensive coordinator Norv Turner calls for the guards to move, pull and operate in space more than the system used by former Browns coach Pat Shurmur the past two seasons. So the guards who block best on the move should have an edge. At this point, Greco looks like the safest bet, meaning Lauvao and Pinkston could be left to fight for the final starting job on an offensive line led by six-time Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas, center Alex Mack and second-year right tackle Mitchell Schwartz.
Coming Wednesday: Kickers and punters.