The Browns offensive line features rookie right tackle Mitchell Schwartz, third-year right guard Shawn Lauvao (his second year starting), center Alex Mack (2011 Pro Bowl second alternate), second-year left guard Jason Pinkston (now out for the year due to a blood clot in his lung) and All-Pro left tackle Joe Thomas.
It is a young unit and one that has limited time to jell. Having said that, they haven't been overwhelmed. It should also be noted that they also haven't had any overwhelming performances as a unit either.
Pass Protection: B -
As a whole, the unit has performed fairly well in the passing game this season. The team has given up only 11 sacks up to this point (good for fifth in the league). However, they have allowed 32 QB hits, which ranks them 22nd in the league. The unit seems to be improving as the season progresses, however, particularly right tackle Mitchell Schwartz.
The question now is: How does Pinkston's absence affect the budding chemistry of the offensive line? With him, the Browns were mostly able to keep QB Brandon Weeden upright and allow him time to make throws. This is good, considering the Browns have averaged 38.9 pass attempts per game (I will save my opinion on that philosophy for another article).
Weeden does not, however, consistently have an opportunity to run through his progressions before making his throw, many times settling for dump offs to running backs or safety valves running short routes.
Run Protection: C -
Just two weeks ago, after analyzing the Browns' offensive statistics, I suggested that they run the football more. The offensive pass to run ratio was 70 percent pass to 30 percent run.
They did in fact adjust this, as the split over the last three games is close to 60 percent pass vs. 40 percent run. The problem that has come to light from this increase in running plays is that they just aren't that good at run blocking.
Three weeks ago, their average rush per carry was 4.1 (13th in the league). It is now 3.8 YPC (22nd in the league). No matter which direction the ball carrier goes, the Browns line has trouble generating any sort of push or running lanes.
According to stats taken from footballoutsiders.com, the highest success rate for Browns runners comes from the right end at sixth in the league, but these numbers are skewed by a couple of successful Travis Benjamin reverse plays that occurred on that side. Aside from that, the Browns average rank for runs to the left, off the left tackle, up the middle, and off the right tackle is 20.5.
The most disappointing part of that stat is that they are ranked 28th in the league running behind All-Pro tackle Joe Thomas.
Were it not for a few good performances in Week 2 against the Cincinnati Bengals, Week 5 against the Giants and even with limited carries in Week 7 against the Colts, the grade would have been lower.