BEREA — Browns right tackle Mitchell Schwartz recognizes his first NFL season was solid, but not spectacular.
After breaking through the rookie wall, the 6-foot-5, 320-pounder plans on making his sophomore year much more successful.
“There were times last year where I was so absorbed in everything, being a rookie, it was kind of hard to stop and take stock of what was going on,” said Schwartz, who will be on the field today at 4 p.m. for the next training camp practice. “Now, I can see there is a natural learning curve, just being at my second training camp. I know how to prepare better and I believe I’m going to really improve.”
Schwartz, who was Cleveland’s second-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, started all 16 games and was on the field for every offensive snap.
The University of California product also formed an effective combination with guard Shawn Lauvao on the right side of the line, which helped him earn a spot on the Pro Football Writers Association’s NFL All-Rookie Team.
Even though the Browns changed coaches from Pat Shurmur to Rob Chudzinski in the offseason, there was never any doubt Schwartz would remain a starter.
“Watching game film from last year, I saw a guy that was a young player, who had some good plays and some bad plays,” Chudzinski said.
“But I think Mitchell has grown and improved since then.
“Technique-wise, he has really been working hard at that in this camp, and he’s been in some really good battles against our outside linebackers. I love seeing that kind of competition because it makes guys better.”
So does Schwartz, who is battling against four new opponents at every training camp practice. Converted defensive lineman Jabaal Sheard, free agent acquisitions Paul Kruger and Quentin Groves, and first-round selection Barkevious Mingo are banging helmets with him, attempting to get to the quarterback in coordinator Ray Horton’s all-attack 3-4 scheme.
“They all present different challenges with their speed or having more strength, so you can’t take any snaps off or they’re going to make you look bad,” said Schwartz, who was one of four NFL rookie tackles to start every game last season.
“I really think those guys are going to make all of us tackles better once we get into actual games — well, I don’t know if Joe (Thomas) can get any better, but it will definitely help me out.”
Six-time Pro Bowl left tackle Thomas and center Alex Mack are among the elite players at their positions in the league, but they’re also first-class workers, according to Schwartz. He said he feels fortunate to be in Cleveland because they provide great examples for him to follow.
Not surprisingly, they also are among the 24-year-old Schwartz’s closest friends on the squad.
“Joe is just Joe, I mean what more can you say about him, except look at all the Pro Bowls he has already played in,” he said, smiling. “Alex is a little different guy, but he’s also so focused, bringing it strong and never taking a day off.
“I’m not sure I could have been placed in a better situation coming out of college than being picked by the Browns.”
Cleveland’s veteran offensive linemen also are quite fond of Schwartz, frequently kidding him about his high IQ and the fact he graduated from Cal with a bachelor’s degree in American studies.
Though it is widely accepted that Schwartz is one of the more cerebral players in the league, he doesn’t try and act like the proverbial smartest guy in the room — even though he usually is.
“He’s not a savant or anything like that, but Mitchell is a very smart guy,” Chudzinski said.
Lauvao agreed, saying: “Mitchell is the probably smartest guy in our room, but he’s much more than that. His approach to his job every week — in terms of his mental approach and his physical, as well — is so strong.”
Further showing Schwartz’s dedication to his craft, he accompanied Lauvao to LeCharles Bentley’s offensive line academy in Arizona during the winter.
The lifelong Californian also spent myriad hours studying the 3-4 defense on film, sensing that he would be facing it more and more each year that he plays in the NFL.
“This league has really shifted to a base of more 3-4 defenses, so I want to learn as much about stopping them as I can,” Schwartz said. “We’re faced with multifront attacks every day here, just like we see against Baltimore and Pittsburgh twice a year, so it’s paramount that I know tendencies and different techniques.
“It takes a lot of work and preparation, but I’ve always been willing to do both to become the best offensive lineman I can be.”
Contract Brian Dulik at email@example.com.
Browns practice from 4-6:30 p.m. in Berea and the public is welcome. For updates, call (877) 627-6967.