Left guard Joel Bitonio, who is now on his fourth full-time head coach since being drafted in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft, sees the potential.
“Baker, I think he works in this offense great,” Bitonio said Tuesday on a Zoom video conference with reporters. “He is going to be able to sell those runs and set up in the pocket. It is not just drop-back passing 50 times a game, which is benefit to the O line, too. If you can sell the run and play action, boot and run keepers off the run game, it is going to give Baker another second or two to have guys get open and run routes. I think you have seen that with the big shots that a team like the 49ers and a team like Minnesota took last year where they have these guys like [Vikings receivers Stefon] Diggs and [Adam] Thielen and [49ers tight end] George Kittle, all these guys running down the field open because [defenses] are so worried about stopping the run.
“If you look at the stats from the last couple of years, Baker has actually been a really good roll-out quarterback and a quarterback that has been able to throw off of the run and stuff like that. I think this offense fits him really well. I am excited to get some reps and see him in it.”
Bitonio will have to adjust his technique a bit this year with Stefanski implementing a wide zone blocking scheme with the help of offensive line coach Bill Callahan.
A 7-4 start before the season fell apart in 2014 has Bitonio a believer in the scheme that was run by Kyle Shanahan his rookie year. Shanahan took off after one season due to what had become typical turmoil within the organization, but the success Shanahan has had running it and taking the Falcons and 49ers to the Super Bowl has Bitonio believing it can help get the Browns back on track.
“I think there are a lot of similarities to that system. You get the boots off of the runs. It is a marriage of the run and pass,” Bitonio said. “We want to make the runs look just like the passes and the play actions just like the runs. It all kind of works itself together. I am excited to get back in it. I thought we had a good offense my rookie year.”
Shoring up the line was a priority this offseason after Mayfield was sacked 40 times in 2019 for executive vice president of football operations and general manager Andrew Berry.
He brought Jack Conklin, a veteran of the zone scheme, in from Tennessee to play right tackle for three years and $42 million
“I think he is a great addition,” Bitonio said. “Anytime you can add a piece – he has been an All-Pro in his career and he is one of the better right tackles in the game – to an offensive line, you are going to help the team, hopefully. I think he is built for this offense, and I have enjoyed spending time with him on Zooms and through texts and conversations. I am looking forward to getting to meet him in person.”
Berry then used the No. 10 overall pick on Alabama right tackle Jedrick Wills, who will move to left tackle in Cleveland.
Bitonio, who checked in with his agent to get an idea about the top tackles in the class, admitted he didn’t know much about Wills prior to the draft but the rookie has made a positive first impression.
“If he is going to come in, listen, be coachable and work hard, that is what you can ask from Day 1,” Bitonio said. “We have had these Zoom conference calls with him, and so far, he has been in tune to those. You do not get as much interaction or on-field interaction as you would in a normal offseason, but from those, he has been dialed in. Everything I have done in texting him and talking to him, he seems like he is ready to work.”