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Giants will be watching Browns’ offensive linemen closely the next few days

New York needs offensive line depth; Cleveland has it in spades

NFL: AUG 03 Cleveland Browns Training Camp
Michael Dunn
Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

In one of his many excellent ‘Fanposts’, community member ‘TarkentonToJones’ recently listed names of Cleveland Browns reserve offensive linemen you should know.

With the New York Giants in Berea, Ohio the next couple of days for joint practices with the Browns, and in obvious need of upgraded offensive line depth, let’s explore that topic in a bit more depth.

The Giants need offensive line depth. The Browns have a terrific starting offensive line and enough capable extra players that they won’t be able to keep them all.

As Browns Wire wrote recently:

For teams that need offensive line help, the Cleveland Browns could be a one stop shop to address their issues with either a veteran or an up and coming player. ...

In no small part due to the pandemic’s impact on the 2020 season plus some good scouting, the Browns find themselves with almost a dozen NFL caliber offensive lineman. They cannot keep them all on the 53-man roster, so as much as they might hope they can get someone to the practice squad, potential trades that net the Browns future assets could make a ton of sense.

Many of the Giants’ decision-makers — co-owner John Mara, GM Dave Gettleman, several of Gettleman’s personnel department lieutenants — will be attending the joint practices.

Gettleman said this week that the Giants would “absolutely” be scouting the Browns this week and New England Patriots next week in joint practices as they look to upgrade their roster.

“I’ll be there. (Co-Director of Player Personnel) Mark Koncz, (Co-Director of Player Personnel) Tim McDonnell will be there. (Director of College Scouting) Chris Pettit is going to be there. So, we’ll all have our guys to look at,” Gettleman said. “Absolutely, it’s a scouting process. Obviously, at night, we’ll go back and watch the film. That’s one of the nice things because you can get up on top of guys, see their body style, their builds, what they look like it. It’s a great opportunity to scout players up close and personal.”

So, who are the players the Giants could be looking at during practice with the Browns? ‘TarkentonToJones’ listed five:

G Michael Dunn
G Blake Hance
G Drew Forbes
G Colby Gossett
G Cordel Iwuagwu

Iwaugwu has already been waived, so let’s not worry about him. Let’s look at the four remaining names on that list, plus Browns backup offensive lineman Chris Hubbard.

Chris Hubbard — A 29-year-old entering his eighth NFL season, Hubbard has started 48 of 80 NFL regular-season games in which he has played. He started five games for the Browns last season. Hubbard has played more tackle than anything, but at one time or another he has played every offensive line position during his time with the Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers.

Browns Wire writes:

Between finding Alex Taylor as an undrafted free agent in 2020 and then drafting James Hudson this year, the Browns might be inclined to move Chris Hubbard. The team adores Hubbard and might be inclined to release him out of respect for him rather than trade him if they don’t keep him on their roster, he does have value in a trade.

Hubbard was incredibly valuable in 2020 when players like Drew Forbes and Colby Gossett opted out for the season due to COVID-19 concerns. Hubbard is a reasonably solid tackle, but he had to come in and play guard when the team was without Wyatt Teller due to injury. He was nowhere as effective as Teller was but he enabled the team not to sustain their success on the line in his stead.

Unfortunately, he suffered a dislocated kneecap on the Giants awful field that ended his season. Healthy, he could be a nice option for a team that wants a veteran that can come in and stabilize a situation.

Michael Dunn — A 26-year-old from the University of Maryland (as a Maryland grad, this makes me a Dunn fan), Dunn has been kicking around the NFL looking for an opportunity since 2017. He has been with the Los Angeles Rams, Jacksonville Jaguars, Birmingham Iron (AAF), Miami Dolphins, Seattle Dragons (XFL) and spent last season on the Browns practice squad.

Dunn played one regular season snap, and was then pressed into full-time duty in last year’s wild-card game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. It is a small sample size, but Dunn ha da 76.2 Pro Football Focus grade in that game. He surrendered just one pressure in 33 pass-blocking snaps.

Blake Hance — A 25-year-old, Hance is a former undrafted free agent who has been with the Buffalo Bills, Washington, Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Jets and Browns since entering the league in 2019.

Hance’s only NFL game experience came in two playoff games for Cleveland last season. In 47 snaps, he compiled a 47.7 PFF grade (20.5 pass blocking, 60.6 run blocking). To be fair to Hance, injuries forced him to play out of position at left tackle during a Divisional Round playoff game vs. the Kansas City Chiefs. He did not allow a sack, but earned just a 16.7 pass blocking grade in 17 snaps.

Drew Forbes — A sixth-round pick by the Browns in 2019, Forbes appeared in two games and played nine special teams snaps. He missed part of the season with a knee injury. Forbes opted out of the 2020 season.

Here is part of a pre-2019 draft scouting report from NFL.com:

He’s a determined blocker with enough athletic ability and instincts in space to transition into a role as a backup zone-scheme guard. If he continues to operate out over his skis and with late hands in pass pro, he will have a difficult time dealing with NFL interior linemen. If a coach can correct those muscle memory issues, he has the upside to keep moving forward and up the depth chart.

Colby Gossett — A sixth-round pick by the Minnesota Vikings in 2018, Gossett has spent time with the Vikings, Arizona Cardinals, New England Patriots and Browns. He opted out of the 2020 season.

Gossett’s only NFL playing time came in 2018 with the Cardinals. After being signed off Minnesota’s practice squad, he played in five games with four starts, totaling 282 offensive snaps. He played all of those at left guard and ended up with a 46.0 PFF grade (45.6 pass blocking, 51.2 run blocking). He surrendered 5 sacks and 14 total pressures in 190 pass blocking snaps, a subpar 94.7 pass blocking efficiency mark.

Final thoughts

No idea if any of these players ends up with the Giants. If one does, however, it will largely be because of impressive work over the next four days in the joint practices and preseason game.