BEREA: The mantra for the Browns since the promotion of General Manager Ray Farmer and the hiring of coach Mike Pettine has been that competition is key.
They’ve infused every area of the team with players meant to push teammates. The offensive line has been no exception. Including John Greco, 14 offensive linemen appear on the team’s pretraining camp roster.
Right now, the depth chart at guard is little more than a white board. No names exist, no positions are guaranteed, even for Greco, a Youngstown native who signed a five-year deal in 2013 that locked him up until 2017.
After minicamp, Pettine gave a look as to how he viewed his team and roster.
“We’re getting ready to go through essentially what we did when we first got hired, was to evaluate the roster,” Pettine said. “We’re basically going to hit the reset button with that. We’re going to evaluate these three days, write up all the players again.”
That is fine with Greco, who was a third-round selection of the St. Louis Rams out of the University of Toledo in 2008.
“I just view it as competition,” he said after the team’s recent minicamp ended. “It makes everyone better. It doesn't get anyone better when you're kind of sitting there saying: ‘OK, this is my spot,’ just kind of relaxed.”
He’s also aware that with a career in the NFL, nothing is a given.
“There's always someone at your footsteps,” he said, “banging on the door so you know at any time you can be easily replaced if there’s a mistake. It just makes you that much more focused to work harder to keep your spot.”
It’s a natural reaction to having someone knocking at the door.
“I don’t look at it as pressure,” Greco said. “Yeah, it makes me more focused. It makes me on top of my game more, but if you let that pressure get to you, and everyone makes mistakes, you can’t dwell on those.
“But if you let it get to you like that, you’re going to see your performance slip and you’re going to make mistakes because you’re thinking about other things that you can't control.”
Lack of control represents one reason that his gaze won’t be focused on the upcoming quarterback battle in training camp between Brian Hoyer and rookie Johnny Manziel.
“At the end of the day, it’s going to be one of those guys,” Greco said. “No matter who it is, we have to roll with it. There’s really nothing we can say and they’ll put the guy who gives us the best chance to win out there. We’ll find that out upcoming in the preseason and camp.”
He said offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan’s offense has been easy to buy into. It’s predicated on being able to run effectively while mixing in the pass, and Greco is eager to see how the team’s eventual starter is able to take advantage of plays on the edge.
“We’re not kind of limited to just pocket passing,” he said. “We can get people on the move.”
In that regard, a primary focus will be on the offensive line that had its struggles last year, giving up 49 sacks.
Any success Hoyer, Manziel or the team’s running backs show will be dependent on improved play from the line.
Pettine said that he’s hopeful the line can be one of the league’s elite units because of the mix of guys who have shown versatility. Greco said demands ensure that there will be improvement overall and for him.
“It’s a lot different,” he said. “There’s been more demanded of us physically, which I think is a good thing. I definitely feel like with our offseason program we’re in way better shape than we were this time last year. So the conditioning has been good. I’ve lost a bunch of weight. But I feel good physically and mentally.”
George M. Thomas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Zips blog at www.ohio.com/zips. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GeorgeThomasABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/abj.sports.