CHICAGO: The tables certainly have turned in Jason Pinkston’s favor.
When the Browns released their first depth chart of the year three weeks ago, Pinkston was listed as the No. 3 left guard. Now he has a chance to start the team’s regular-season opener on Sept. 11.
The Browns are giving Pinkston a chance to prove he’s worthy of becoming the replacement for Eric Steinbach, who had back surgery Tuesday and is out for the season. Pinkston’s audition continued Thursday night when he started against the host Chicago Bears.
“You just want to help the team win,” Pinkston said. “You don’t want to let the older guys down, so you’ve gotta hold your end of the bargain up. That’s what they brought you here for.”
Starters typically don’t play much, if at all, in the final exhibition game of the year. However, Browns coach Pat Shurmur wanted to see more from his rookies, including the 6-foot-4, 305-pound Pinkston.
Pinkston, a fifth-round draft pick (150th overall) from the University of Pittsburgh, played the entire first half. The Browns’ offense was dismal for most of the first two quarters, but Pinkston appeared to hold his ground. He and center Steve Vallos sealed off Bears defenders and paved the way for undrafted rookie running back Armond Smith’s 6-yard touchdown run with 1:29 left in the second quarter.
Pinkston, who will turn 24 on Monday, has come a long way since he was buried behind Steinbach and backup Pat Murray on the depth chart. He also started the Browns’ third preseason game last week against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Shurmur has said the Browns could try to acquire another offensive lineman to help compensate for the loss of Steinbach. But he also said the team is willing to give Pinkston a shot.
“This guy has done a very fine job as a rookie coming in and playing,” Shurmur said. “I’m hopeful that’ll continue, and I’m hopeful that we got ourself a good player.”
Only time will tell if Pinkston can make the most of his opportunity.
With most of the Browns’ first-string players — rookie starters excluded — resting Thursday night, the starting lineups had much different looks.
The following Browns started on offense against the Bears: quarterback Seneca Wallace; wide receivers Brian Robiskie, Jordan Norwood and rookie Greg Little; rookie fullback Owen Marecic; tight end Evan Moore; offensive linemen Phil Trautwein (left tackle), Pinkston (left guard), Vallos (center), Murray (right guard) and John Greco (right tackle).
The following Browns started on defense: linemen Derreck Robinson (left end), rookie Phil Taylor (tackle), Scott Paxson (tackle) and rookie Jabaal Sheard (right end); linebackers Brian Smith, Archie Donald and Benjamin Jacobs; cornerbacks Buster Skrine and Coye Francies; safeties Ray Ventrone and DeAngelo Smith.
Wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi didn’t play Thursday night, but he was in uniform. Massaquoi did not practice leading up to the team’s previous three exhibition games because he was sidelined with a chipped bone in his left foot. Massaquoi returned to practice this past Sunday.
Offensive right tackle Tony Pashos and defensive tackle Travis Ivey dressed even though they missed action Tuesday during practice.
Wide receiver Carlton Mitchell (surgically repaired finger), tight end Benjamin Watson (hip) and weakside linebacker Chris Gocong (pinched nerve) were not in uniform Thursday night. Mitchell wore a brace or splint on his left hand as he walked on the field before the game.
Browns defensive end Auston English had two sacks. … Wallace, tight end Alex Smith and weakside linebacker Kaluka Maiava served as captains for the Browns.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Browns blog at http://browns.ohio.com. Follow the Browns on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ABJ_Browns and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/browns.abj.