With the prospect of injured Browns OLG Eric Steinbach and RB Brandon Jackson missing significant time — and perhaps the entire season, Mary Kay Cabot of The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer reported Friday — Cleveland's depth will be tested.
Jason Pinkston, a rookie who played tackle at Pitt, will replace Steinbach, a starter the last four seasons for Cleveland. The Browns like Pinkston — head coach Pat Shurmur spoke highly of his progress at guard on Aug. 26, a day after Pinkston started Cleveland's third preseason game in Steinbach's place — and the fifth-round pick will have the benefit of playing in between two Pro Bowlers in OLT Joe Thomas and C Alex Mack.
Pinkston, PFW personnel analyst Nolan Nawrocki wrote in PFW's 2011 Draft Preview, "(carries his weight well — is fairly light on his feet to shuffle and slide in pass protection. Runs his feet on contact and can create some push with sheer mass. Bends his knees and plays on his feet." The knocks on Pinkston, per Nawrocki, were the lineman's instincts, effort and finishing ability.
The loss of Jackson, who will be "out for an extended period," according to Shurmur, leaves the Browns thin at running back — an issue they faced at points last season — once again. (Per ESPN's Adam Schefter, Jackson has turf toe and will be out for at least six weeks.) Peyton Hillis will start, and second-year pro Montario Hardesty, who missed last season with a knee injury, will be counted on for relief. First-year pro Quinn Porter and rookie Armond Smith are the other running backs on the roster.