BEREA, Ohio — The plan was to find a bookend for perennial Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas to play right tackle for the Browns.
So far, so good.
The Browns used a second-round pick to take 6-5, 320-pound Mitchell Schwartz out of Cal in the 2012 NFL Draft. He didn’t make it to the Pro Bowl as Thomas did in his rookie season, but he was voted to the Pro Football Writer’s Association NFL All-Rookie team.
Schwartz, 24, played every snap for the Browns in all 16 games at right tackle.
“There were times last year where I was so absorbed in everything, being a rookie, it was kind of hard to stop and take stock of what was going on,” Schwartz said. “Now, I can see there is a natural learning curve, just being at my second training camp. I know how to prepare better and I believe I’m going to really improve.”
Rob Chudzinski said that he has seen improvement from Schwartz already since his rookie season. He has held his own as demonstrated Monday against some of the Browns top pass rushers.
“Watching film from last year, I saw a guy that was a young player, who had some good plays and some bad plays,” Chudzinski said. “But I think Mitchell has grown and improved since then.”
Schwartz said going up against Ray Horton’s 3-4 defense has helped him, since that is the style of defense division foes Pittsburgh and Baltimore employ. He’s getting work against the likes of Paul Kruger, Jabaal Sheard and Barkevious Mingo on a daily basis.
“They’re all obviously really good at what they do, which is a challenge every day, but they’re all a little bit different, so it’s not the same type of rusher every play,” Schwartz said. “You get more variation and different moves. Jabaal specializes in something different than Kruger, who is different than Mingo. You see a little bit of everything, which is great because that’s all the stuff you’ll see on Sundays.
“That’s pretty huge because it not only helps you see it, but you’re able to counter it,” Schwartz said. “You figure out what works against it, what doesn’t. If it’s changing up something with your hands, changing something up with your footwork, you’ve got to be able to figure out what’s going to work against that type of move. Being able to see more of those in practice just allows you to work on it.”
“He has grown and improved,” Chudzinski said. “Technique-wise, he has really been working at that in this camp so far. He has really good battles going on, as all our tackles do with those outside linebackers. That is the thing that you love seeing, that kind of competition because it makes guys better. I really think he is benefiting from the guys he is going against in Jabaal and Kruger, and he is getting some reps with Mingo. I am really looking forward to him continuing to improve.”
Schwartz says getting so many different looks from the defense helps him prepare for the regular season. He doesn’t want to get penalized for false starts or penalties that can be prevented.
“That’s one of the few cardinals sins of an offensive lineman — make the mistakes on things you can control,” he said. “There’s so much that you can’t control. You don’t want to jump offsides. You don’t want to go the wrong way. You want to know what you’re doing, but that goes back to being able to see different things at practice from our guys. Everything in this game is adjustments. Being able to adapt quickly has to be a strength for an offensive lineman.”
Schwartz said he has the drive and work ethic to be a top tier tackle in the NFL.
“It takes a lot of work and preparation, but I’ve always been willing to do both to become the best offensive lineman I can be.”
T Rich Back: RB Trent Richardson was back at practice after being held out the past two practices. Richardson was kicked in the shin last week and didn’t participate in Friday’s practice and Saturday’s Family Night. Chudzinski said he would be back in action Monday when the team returned to full pads and he was. It is unknown if he will play in Thursday’s preseason opener with the Rams. Richardson received the first carry in 11-on-11 team scrimmage as they worked on Red Zone offense. He was knocked out of bounds short of the goal line.
“It is good to have him back out there,” Chudzinski said after practice. “I haven’t decided with regards to Trent on (Rams game). We want to be smart with him. We have a plan for him so he can be out here on a daily basis.”
Lauvao Down: OL Shawn Lauvao was carted off the field near the end of practice with an apparent ankle injury during Monday’s practice, but Chudzinski didn’t have the severity as of yet.
“We’ll have to see what the injury is (Tuesday),” Chudzinski said after practice.
Lauvao is listed as the co-starting right guard on the depth chart with Jason Pinkston.
“We’ve been working Pinkston on both sides,” he said. “He has the ability to move back and forth. He’s going through a process of coming back. He’s been through a lot.”
Pinkston missed the last 10 games of the 2012 season with a blood clot in his lung. He started the first six games at left guard before being replaced by John Greco.
Ward, DB’s Back: The Browns had four of their secondary players back in full pads Monday. T.J. Ward (hamstring), Trevin Wade (tightness), Tashaun Gipson (shoulder) and Jamoris Slaughter (hamstring) were all back in uniform after missing a few days.
On the Side: There were six players on the side with the trainers: WR David Nelson (knee), RB Montario Hardesty (hamstring), FB Brad Smelley (hamstring), FB Brock Bolen (calf) and OL Chris Faulk (knee). OL Ryan Miller (head) is still out with a concussion.
Pioli Visits: Former Browns, Patriots and Chiefs executive Scott Pioli visited Browns training camp.