Austin Corbett

AFC North Notes: Steelers, Bengals, Browns

The Steelers will use the preseason to determine their backup quarterback behind Ben Roethlisberger, but 2018 third-round pick Mason Rudolph appears to have a leg up over fellow signal-caller Josh Dobbs, as Ed Bouchette of The Athletic writes. Dobbs, a fourth-round selection in the 2017 draft, served as Pittsburgh’s No. 2 last season, but managed just 12 passing attempts in relief of Roethlisberger. Rudolph, meanwhile, only played during the 2018 preseason, completing 24-of-44 passes for 315 yards. “I had the general concepts down and our plays but there are things that you take a little deeper dive,’’ Rudolph said. “Run schemes, protections, signals. Just the no-huddle calls. Ben does such great job of ad-libbing.” As Bouchette notes, No. 3 quarterbacks rarely get significant practice reps during the regular season, so if the Steelers view Rudolph as Roethlisberger’s successor, he could use the practice snaps due a backup quarterback in order to develop this year.

Here’s more from the AFC North:

  • Another Steelers battle is taking place at wide receiver, where veteran Donte Moncrief appears to be the frontrunner for No. 2 duties behind JuJu Smith-Schuster, according to Dan Graziano of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Moncrief, who signed a two-year, $9MM deal with Pittsburgh in March, is competing against 2018 second-round pick James Washington and 2019 third-rounder Diontae Johnson for time. In his first and only season with the Jaguars in 2018, Moncrief posted 48 catches for 668 yards and three touchdowns, but ranked as a bottom-15 wideout in Football Outsiders‘ efficiency metrics. The Steelers lost the second-most air yards and sixth-most targets of any NFL team during the offseason, so there should be plenty of work to go around.
  • Bengals sixth-round rookie running back Rodney Anderson has been cleared to practice, tweets Ben Baby of ESPN.com. Once viewed as a potential early-round selection, Anderson suffered a torn ACL during his final season at Oklahoma and subsequently fell to Day 3 of the draft. In 2017, however, Anderson put up 1,161 yards on the ground and scored 18 total touchdowns. Cincinnati is set at the top of its running back depth chart with Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard, but Anderson and fellow sixth-round rookie Trayveon Williams should make the roster as reserves.
  • After the Browns traded Kevin Zeitler to the Giants, Austin Corbett was thought to be a shoo-in to take over as Cleveland’s starting right guard. But the 2018 second-rounder may not enter the regular season as one of the Browns’ top five linemen, per Graziano (Instagram link). Corbett hasn’t had the offseason the Browns “wanted or expected him to have,” so much so that veteran Eric Kush could end up starting at right guard. Kush, 29, started seven games for the Bears in 2018 and has appeared in 33 career contests.

AFC Notes: Browns, Landry, Peterman

On the eve of roster cutdown day, here’s the latest out of the AFC:

  • The Browns have turned to multiple players this offseason in search of Joe Thomas‘ replacement, but after moving well-regarded left guard Joel Bitonio to left tackle, it doesn’t appear the team is ready to slot him there in Week 1. Hue Jackson said Bitonio might be moving back to guard and has declined to say who will be his left tackle starter against the Steelers, per Tony Grossi of ESPNCleveland (on Twitter). Austin Corbett‘s left guard job is also not certain, per Jackson (via Jeff Schudel of the Lorain Morning Journal, on Twitter). Rookie UDFA Desmond Harrison may be the latest name to get a crack at left tackle, which would be an interesting move for a team with Shon Coleman and Greg Robinson still on the roster.
  • It appears the Titans may be without two of their top edge rushers when they suit up for Week 1. With Derrick Morgan already expected to be out because of meniscus surgery, Harold Landry suffered a sprained ankle — a second opinion revealing that this could be a high ankle sprain, per NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero (via Twitter) — is uncertain for Tennessee’s opener. No joint damage occurred, but the Titans may opt to play it safe with their second-rounder.
  • Working as both a camp kicker and punter with the Ravens, rookie UDFA Kaare Vedvik has drawn attention around the league this month. Teams are monitoring this situation, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter (Twitter link), since Vedvik will not be beating out Justin Tucker or Sam Koch.
  • Nathan Peterman has a real shot to be the Bills‘ Week 1 starter, despite having made one of the worst starts in modern NFL history last season. Signs are pointing to Peterman to begin the year as the Bills’ starter, Matthew Fairburn of The Athletic writes. The 2017 fifth-round pick completed 80 percent of his preseason passes and watched the Bills deploy A.J. McCarron instead of him in Thursday night’s preseason finale, a game usually reserved for backups or players set to be cut. McCarron signed for two years and $8MM this offseason. Josh Allen is obviously the long-term option, but while he learns, Peterman may be the Bills’ guy.

Browns Rumors: Gordon, Corbett, Robinson

Josh Gordon remains away from the Browns as they enter the second week of training camp, but the team remains confident its oft-unavailable wideout will show up in Berea, Ohio, at some point during camp. John Dorsey reaffirmed during a radio interview Friday that the 27-year-old pass-catcher will be at camp. But no timetable has been announced. Browns camp runs until August 15, though it’s unclear if Dorsey meant Gordon will return by camp’s conclusion or merely before the regular season begins.

I told you he’d be here, and he will be here,” the Cleveland GM said during an interview with 92.3 The Fan (via the Lorain Morning Journal). “… I haven’t talked to Josh Gordon; I’m going to respect his privacy. I admire what he’s doing here because he’s taking care of the long-term interest of his person.”

Gordon is believed to be at a rehab center in Gainesville, Fla., and his return status may not be entirely up to him. Roger Goodell could well have a say, complicating matters for a player who’s endured one of the more complicated careers in modern NFL history.

Here’s the latest out of Cleveland:

  • The Browns moving to their “Plan Z” so fast — sliding Joel Bitonio to left tackle — will prompt them to move second-round pick Austin Corbett into Bitonio’s old spot. Corbett is now working as the team’s starting left guard, Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com reports. The left side of the Browns’ line is now comprised of former Nevada starting tackles, with Corbett taking over as the Wolf Pack’s left tackle for Bitonio in 2014 after he was a Cleveland draft choice. Corbett did not see time at guard in college but was considered a prospect who could make the transition inside in the pros.
  • Given the first chance to succeed Joe Thomas, Shon Coleman was not progressing like the Browns hoped, per Cabot. Cleveland’s right tackle starter last season, Coleman seems likely to now become a swing backup. But Hue Jackson suggested Greg Robinson, who’s been out for most of camp due to a concussion, may get a chance to potentially move Bitonio back to guard. Though, this move doesn’t look to be an experiment. “It’s full speed ahead with Joel,” Jackson said. “But Greg will factor into that. He hasn’t practiced enough. I don’t know enough about him yet to say if he can or he can’t.”
  • Duke Johnson would prefer to be a full-time slot receiver, rather than serving as a running back/receiver, per Dan Labbe of cleveland.com. With Jarvis Landry around, it doesn’t seem like the recently extended passing-down running back’s role will be changing anytime soon. Johnson took 82 handoffs last season but caught a career-high 74 passes.

North Notes: Bears, Browns, Ragnow

Fans of another Midwestern team will recognize much of what the 2018 Bears‘ offense looks like. Matt Nagy said, via Dan Pompei of The Athletic (subscription required) the Bears’ offense will be 70-80 percent the same as what the Chiefs run under Andy Reid.

It will be different in some regards, which is only fair to our coaches on offense and the ideas they have,” Nagy said. “But the identity is going to be the same. It will feel very similar to Kansas City’s. We’re in the lab now. That’s the fun part. All the coaches are giving their ideas and thoughts. Coach [Reid] always said he had 51 percent of the say. So ultimately, he had final say. Now I have that. There are plays I liked that Coach [Reid] didn’t like, so now those plays are in.

Reid and Nagy each had roles as the Chiefs’ primary play-caller during the pair’s two years working in an HC-OC relationship, with Nagy’s shift toward play-calling responsibilities coinciding with Kansas City’s late-season charge toward a second straight AFC West title. He’ll attempt to replicate that with the Bears.

With OTAs continuing for some and minicamps starting elsewhere this week, here’s the latest from the North divisions.

  • The Browns believe Mychal Kendricks can play all three linebacker positions, per Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal. Lining up the ex-Eagles starter — who is set to sign with the Browns on Monday — in the middle would give him the best chance of starting, with Jamie Collins and Christian Kirksey on the outside. However, Joe Schobert started all 16 Browns games as the middle linebacker and was the top-rated (per Pro Football Focus) Browns ‘backer last season. Kendricks was unhappy with his role with the Eagles, but in Cleveland, the Browns’ recent futility notwithstanding, he’s going to be playing with a deeper group of linebackers. A three-down role won’t be guaranteed. Of course, the previous Browns regime re-signed Collins and extended Kirksey, which could complicate matters a bit as John Dorsey steps into his first full season with the franchise.
  • Also in Cleveland, Browns coaches are high on Duke Johnson, despite the team signing Carlos Hyde and drafting Nick Chubb, and Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com envisions an extension coming to fruition this offseason. The Browns have nearly $70MM in cap space, and Johnson would seemingly fit alongside either Hyde or Chubb as a passing-down back. The sides have been discussing a re-up for a bit now.
  • Despite being open to Joel Bitonio as Joe Thomas‘ replacement, the Browns kept him at left guard at OTAs this week, per Terry Pluto of cleveland.com. Bitonio would prefer to stay at guard, and the Browns — who drafted Austin Corbett, Bitonio’s left tackle successor at Nevada — in Round 2. Corbett is currently working behind Shon Coleman at left tackle.
  • On the subject of rookie offensive linemen’s roles, the Lions have begun first-round pick Frank Ragnow‘s tenure at guard, Kyle Meinke of MLive.com notes, adding he took some first-team reps at that spot. This is interesting considering Graham Glasgow played well at guard last season. The Lions have T.J. Lang entrenched at the other guard slot and signed ex-Jets center Wesley Johnson. However, Detroit’s discussed the notion of moving Glasgow to center. Ragnow played center for all but one game as an upperclassman but started throughout his sophomore season at guard for Arkansas.
  • Tyler Matakevich underwent surgery to repair three areas — his rotator cuff, labrum and a biceps muscle — repaired shortly after the Steelers‘ divisional-round loss to the Jaguars. And the Steelers subsequently signed Jon Bostic, seemingly to replace Ryan Shazier this season. However, Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review notes Matakevich was the first-string inside linebacker alongside Vince Williams throughout OTAs this week. While this situation is likely far from being settled, the Steelers holding a competition between a 2016 seventh-round pick and a sixth-year veteran who started 14 games last season is interesting.

Browns Sign Rookie Austin Corbett, Two Others

The Browns announced that they have signed second-round draft choice Austin Corbett, the first player picked in the second round (No. 33 overall). Cleveland has also signed its two sixth round selections, WR Damion Ratley (No. 175 overall) and CB Simeon Thomas (No. 188 overall).

Corbett, a Nevada product, helped his draft stock dramatically during Senior Bowl practices, when he reportedly “dominated everybody” while lining up at center, guard, or right tackle. Given that he does not have ideal size for an NFL tackle (6-4, 306 pounds), many feel that he may ultimately be forced to line up inside at the professional level, but the Browns believe he can play on the edge.

Regardless of where he lines up, he will be protecting a valuable commodity. While the Browns are reportedly set on opening the season with Tyrod Taylor under center, the team did just make QB Baker Mayfield the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, and the reigning Heisman Trophy winner figures to take the reins sooner rather than later.

And, if Corbett wins the left tackle job — his primary competition for that role is 2016 third-rounder Shon Coleman, who served as Cleveland’s right tackle last season — he will have pretty big shoes to fill. Joe Thomas, a 10-time Pro Bowler and six-time All-Pro who had been entrenched at the left tackle position for the Browns since 2007, announced his retirement in March, thereby opening up an opportunity for Corbett or Coleman.

Corbett is the only offensive lineman Cleveland selected in this year’s draft.

Draft Rumors: Allen, Rosen, Smith, OL

With Super Bowl LII three days away, the next wave of NFL players will begin to take center stage in news cycles as the Combine approaches. And no position, per usual, will be analyzed like quarterback. This year, though, there are several first-round passers expected, with a few vying for the No. 1 overall pick. Here’s the latest on the draft:

  • A source whose team has a top-five draft choice told Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller he expects Josh Allen to be drafted in the top two. This would gel with what ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. expects, having placed the Wyoming talent as Cleveland-bound. Miller has Allen as the third quarterback on his big board, behind Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen.
  • On Rosen, evaluators may be more interested in how he conducts himself during the pre-draft process. Having proven to possess an elite skill set as a prospect, the outspoken UCLA product has skeptics in the evaluation community. Multiple executives and scouts say Rosen’s style will turn off teams during interviews. “Scouts might like Rosen, but coaches won’t because he’s stubborn and cocky and he thinks he’s smarter than them,” a scout told Miller. This is far from the first time Rosen’s perceived attitude problem has landed on the NFL radar.
  • Roquan Smith may have stood out for Georgia during the Bulldogs’ best season in over a decade, but where he lands on draft boards will be up for debate. One NFC scout expressed concerns about Smith’s size. “You’re going to have to convince me he can get off blockers because he didn’t against Notre Dame or Oklahoma.” Another scout told Miller he views the early-entry linebacker as having “Ryan Shazier– or Shaq Thompson-like athleticism.” After a 137-tackle, 6.5-sack season with an SEC team, Smith figures to be an early-first-round selection.
  • Texas-San Antonio defensive end Marcus Davenport could fall into the high-ceiling/low-floor category among some evaluators. DraftAnalyst.com’s Tony Pauline notes some teams were not impressed with the smaller-school talent at the Senior Bowl.
  • Conversely, Nevada offensive lineman Austin Corbett used Senior Bowl practices to shoot up to a Day 2 selection, with Pauline writing that Corbett “dominated everybody” while lining up at center, guard or right tackle.