Cleveland Browns: Can John Moffitt Emerge as a Starter in Cleveland?

Updated: August 20, 2013

By Bob Evans
Senior Writer

The injury bug has hit the Cleveland Browns hard over the past couple of weeks, but no position on the roster was decimated more than the offensive line—specifically the guard position. In a matter of two weeks, the Browns lost two players with the capability of starting, Shawn Lauvao and Jason Pinkston, for the remainder of the preseason and likely at least the first two games of the regular season.

**Editor’s Note: As of Tuesday evening, the Cleveland Browns voided the trade for Moffitt with Seattle due to lingering injury concerns. Moffitt was then traded by Seattle to Denver.**

Losing Lauvao and Pinkston forced the Browns to thrust little-known rookie Garrett Gilkey into a starter’s role during their second preseason game against the Detroit Lions, and he actually did not perform too badly. However, with an offense looking to take the next step in 2013, it is going to be tough for the Browns to rely on a late-round draft pick to fill a major hole on their offensive line.

With this is mind, the Cleveland Browns front office dealt from a position of strength on Monday, sending defensive lineman Brian Sanford to the Seattle Seahawks for guard/center John Moffitt. With Moffitt losing ground on J.R. Sweezy for the starting right guard position in Seattle, the former Wisconsin Badger became expendable. Add in the fact that Moffitt is versatile enough to play two positions on the line, and it seemed to be a good fit in Cleveland.

“John’s a tough and versatile lineman who will be in the mix for us upfront,” stated Browns head coach Rob Chudzinski after the trade. It is obvious that versatility was a major factor in this move, and the fact that the players on the team’s roster capable of playing the right guard position pretty much have zero in-game experience probably didn’t hurt Moffitt’s cause either.

At 26-years old, Moffitt played in 17 games from 2011-2012 with the Seattle Seahawks, starting 15 of those games. A former third-round pick (No. 75 overall) in the 2011 NFL Draft, Moffitt was expected to be the next great offensive lineman to emerge from Wisconsin in the NFL. He was a 2010 All-American selection, however, his poor pass blocking skills had many scouts concerned when he came to the NFL.

Despite the negative reviews on his pass blocking, Moffitt has always been a monster in the run game. He does not have ideal quickness, but has a mean streak in him on running plays that could be a major asset for this team—especially with franchise running back Trent Richardson lining up in the backfield. Add in the fact that Moffitt will have some pretty good linemen to learn from in Wisconsin alum Joe Thomas and one of the best centers in the game in Alex Mack, and let’s just say Moffitt will have all the tools to succeed in Cleveland.

While Moffitt certainly will come in and compete for the starting guard spot from day one, this writer has to caution fans for getting too excited about the young guard. In two seasons in the league, Moffitt has been suspended four games for violating the banned substance rule (Adderall) and he was arrested for disorderly conduct. According to reports, Moffitt had three separate incidents involving him urinating in public at a place known as Bellevue Mall. Before you jump to conclusions thinking he was urinating in a fountain at a mall full of teenagers, it turns out this area is known for numerous restaurants and night clubs as well—so he may have just had a little too much to drink and “had to go”.

With all of this in mind, the legal issues are not really what bothers this writer.

As the Browns transition to a new, vertical offensive system under Chud and offensive coordinator Norv Turner, pass blocking is going to be a major emphasis. If Moffitt allows too much push on his side of the ball, it will put Mack and second-year right tackle Mitchell Schwartz in bad situations on their own blocking assignments, thus not allowing Brandon Weeden the time to make good reads and deliver the ball to his receivers at the correct time.

Luckily for the Browns, the team did not give up a whole lot to acquire Moffitt—so this is the epitome of a low risk, high reward move. If Moffitt can take to the blocking scheme in Cleveland surrounded by four very good blockers, then the team hit a home run on this trade. If not, the team will have a player with 15 games of starting experience for depth in case someone else gets injured. So at the end of the day, we will all just have to wait and see what Moffitt can do on the field these last two preseason games.

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