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Pinkston finds a home in Cleveland

| Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Browns' final trade of the 2011 NFL Draft has been overshadowed by their first two deals. Nevertheless, it proves general manager Tom Heckert and Co. have faith in offensive lineman Jason Pinkston.

The Browns sent their two sixth-round selections to the Minnesota Vikings so they could move up and select the 6-foot-3, 317-pound Pinkston, a Pitt and Baldwin High School product, in the fifth round.

"We were looking at the teams that were picking ahead of us," coach Pat Shurmur said. "We had projected teams that we thought were going to go offensive line. He was a guy we had targeted, and we just didn't want to risk losing him."

Whether the Browns' gamble pays off remains to be seen. This, however, is clear: Pinkston, who was Pitt's starting left tackle during the past three seasons, has fully embraced Northeast Ohio. He used Twitter to announce his new allegiance to the Cleveland Indians and his lack of support for the Miami Heat. He even claimed to have a dream about meeting his future wife in Cleveland.

Fans might learn to love Pinkston because of his attitude. As for the Browns, they're attracted to his versatility. Although Pinkston played tackle in college, the Browns first will experiment with him at guard, Shurmur said.

"Anytime you can draft an offensive lineman that has that versatility, you're in good shape," Heckert said. "(Pinkston) was another guy that we liked. ... Hopefully he comes in and plays well for us."

Despite Tony Pashos suffering season-ending injuries in consecutive years, the Browns view him as their starting right tackle. Joe Thomas, Eric Steinbach and Alex Mack are entrenched as the starters at left tackle, left guard and center. The starting job at right guard could be up for grabs.

Last season, Floyd Womack started 12 games at right guard, but he's unsigned. So is fellow veteran Billy Yates, who started at right guard when the Browns played New Orleans, New England and the New York Jets in 2010. Shawn Lauvao made one start at right guard last year as a rookie, and he'll probably become the favorite to fill the spot, especially if Womack and Yates don't return.

Then there's Pinkston. At the least, he should receive a chance to push for playing time.

"I'm going to just come in and do my part and do it the best I can, playing offensive line, learning the playbook and getting things done like that," Pinkston said. "I'll try to follow the lead of the older veterans on the team, and if I can get in and play right away, I'm definitely up for it."

Pinkston has reasons to believe he can excel as a professional. For one, he has pedigree. His cousin, Todd Pinkston, played receiver for the Philadelphia Eagles while Heckert and Shurmur worked for the team.

But perhaps the tutelage Pinkston received from former Pitt offensive line coach Tony Wise will prove to be more valuable than his bloodlines. In his 37-year coaching career, Wise has spent 18 seasons guiding offensive lines in the NFL.

"I've been in a pro-style offense with coach Tony Wise, who's been my offensive line coach for a long time," Pinkston said. "We ran a lot of power football. Some of our blocking schemes are very similar to (those of the) Cleveland Browns."

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