May 26, 2016

Mostly cloudy

Lauvao to miss start of season

Scott Petrak

The Gazette

Shawn Lauvao has started 32 straight games at right guard and didn’t miss a snap last season.

Those streaks will end Sept. 8 when the Browns open the regular season against Miami.

Lauvao had arthroscopic surgery on his ankle Friday, and coach Rob Chudzinski announced he would be out for the start of the season.

“He’ll miss some time early in the regular season,” Chudzinski said on a conference call. “I don’t have any definitive dates and times on that. We’ll just have to see how that goes from the results of the scope and how he’ll progress over the next few weeks.”

Jason Pinkston, who missed the last 10 games of 2012 with blood clots, replaced Lauvao at right guard Thursday night in the preseason-opening win and is expected to keep the job into the season.

“Jason has had experience there and been effective there,” Chudzinski said. “So that’s definitely a high hope for us.”

Chudzinski declined to divulge details of the injury but said the ankle wasn’t broken. The Plain Dealer, citing a league source, reported Lauvao had a piece of loose cartilage removed. He also suffered a high ankle sprain.

Lauvao was injured Monday during a one-on-one pass rush drill vs. defensive lineman Phil Taylor. Lauvao crumpled to the ground after they engaged and was carted off the field.

Pinkston was fighting for one of the starting spots along with Lauvao and John Greco, but was projected as the backup on both sides. Instead, he’ll spend the next month trying to refine his technique on the right side.

A fifth-round pick in 2011, Pinkston (6-foot-4, 305) was moved to the left side and thrust into the starting lineup as a rookie when veteran Eric Steinbach injured his back. Pinkston started 22 straight games before the blood clots threatened his career and life.

Pinkston said he’s still adjusting to the move back to the right side, but Chudzinski prefers that lineup because he wants to keep Greco on the left.

“We’ll work it this way for a little while here,” he said. “I know that John has flexibility being able to play on the right side as well. But I think the guys play next to each other and then they start to develop a little chemistry, so I’d like to see how that evolves with Jason staying on the right side.

“And in the back of our minds, we know that we potentially could flip-flop it if we had to.”

Pinkston must overcome another issue before the Dolphins visit. He wasn’t cleared to practice until late in the spring and isn’t in football shape yet.

When the rest of the starters exited Thursday after a play in the second quarter, Pinkston remained in the game with the second unit.

“We wanted to get him more work and keep working him back into things and he did a good job,” Chudzinski said. “I was pleased with him.”

The line is a strength of the team, but another long-term injury at guard would test the depth. Rookie seventh-round pick Garrett Gilkey, Oniel Cousins, Jarrod Shaw and undrafted rookie Caylin Hauptmann are the options behind Pinkston.

Gilkey is an intriguing prospect at 6-6, 320 pounds, but is raw after playing at Division II Chadron State. He’s been concentrating on left guard but has worked on the right side in individual drills.

“He was pretty solid in there in his protections and his effort was really good finishing blocks,” Chudzinski said of Gilkey’s performance Thursday. “He showed some physicality and I’m pretty sure no mental mistakes, so I think he did a good job.”

Injury update

Chudzinski expects many of the 14 players inactive vs. the Rams to practice today or Sunday.

The list includes running back Trent Richardson, who’s been slowed by a sore shin. Chudzinski was asked if he will be back for the game vs. the Lions on Thursday.

“I’m expecting Trent to practice and then we’ll see as far as getting him some rep time and getting him some work in the game,” Chudzinski said.

l Cornerback Chris Owens (foot) is expected back in the next few days.

l Offensive lineman Ryan Miller hasn’t returned to the team since suffering a concussion July 27, but Chudzinski said they texted recently.

“He says he’s feeling better,” Chudzinski said. “He’s still resting and that’s kind of where he’s at right now. But he said he’s starting to feel better and making progress.”

Kicking it

The battles at kicker and punter didn’t resolve themselves Thursday.

Veteran Shayne Graham was good on a 41-yard field goal. Rookie Brandon Bogotay made it from 25 yards and was wide left from 54.

“I think that all of those guys had some moments where they shined in terms of things they did,” Chudzinski said. “I still see it as really close, both from a kicking and punting standpoint.

“We wanted to give Brandon Bogotay a chance for one of the long ones, because obviously he’s got a strong leg. He pushed it a little left, there was a cross-breeze going from right to left and he just missed it, but it was a good experience for all of those guys. And again, they’re all neck-and-neck.”

T.J. Conley punted twice with gross and net averages of 40.0 yards and one inside the 20-yard line. Spencer Lanning punted twice with a 45.0 gross and 30.5 net, including a touchback.

They took turns holding on kicks, but Chudzinski said that won’t be a factor in who wins the job because both are good.

Contact Scott Petrak at (440) 329-7253 or Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.