Second Day Rookies: Joel Bitonio and Terrance West
Following up on the fantastic first round of the NFL Draft, the Cleveland Browns were in prime position to choose a wide receiver to “take over for” Josh Gordon (who is expected to be suspended for at least the 2014 season). However, that was not the train of thought for general manager Ray Farmer; he chose an offensive lineman in the second round instead. Additionally, the team also traded up into the third round and grabbed a talented running back. Both offensive weapons should help immediately, but let’s delve further into the duo.
Background for the lineman:
Admittedly so, I was not initially ecstatic after the Browns took the offensive tackle from the University of Nevada. However, after researching and watching some film on the athlete – I have gotten increasingly excited about the (potential) starting offensive guard. The son of the late mixed martial arts fighter, Mike Bitonio, Joel started thirty-nine consecutive contests for the Wolf Pack. I felt he definitely held his own against the national champion Florida State Seminoles at left tackle; if that alone is any indication – fans can be confident. Bitonio was one of the top prospects of the draft class and his fiery on-the-field personality is what gravitated scouts towards him. Provided they have the right guys in the backfield (quarterback included), this draft choice has a potential to be a mainstay on the line for a while – regardless of position.
Learning about the rusher:
I can recall hearing about the Browns scouting multiple running backs (in the draft class) this winter, including Terrance West. Nowadays, success stories at that position can come from any round of the draft (including undrafted free agents) and include guys from any size of school. The latter is the focal point for West, who was the 2013 CAA Offensive Player of the Year as a member of Towson. He set many conference records – including single season records in rushing yards (2,509) and rushing touchdowns (41). Obviously this is tremendous production, but some may be concerned that it came against perceived “lesser competition”; I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. It could sound cliché, but Kyle Shanahan knows how to employ running backs – Terrance West could be the next solid one during his
tenure as offensive coordinator. Like Bitonio, I do not envision him to shoulder the load immediately, but West (used properly) can be a force for several years.
Conclusion: There’s much for fans to be enthralled about following the selections of Bitonio and West. The Browns’ offense needed to be bolstered and (on paper) it appears that is what happened. Granted they still have to figure out the intricacies of the passing game – which many NFL franchises are heavily reliant upon – but should that occur, than they can be a proficient offense. Beginning this season, I anticipate a ferocious offense that employs a steady rushing attack as its primary form of moving the football. I am still terrified of their wide receiving corps sans Josh Gordon (even with the signings of Earl Bennett and Miles Austin), but I still have not been this excited for a Cleveland Browns’ offense in quite some time.