Greco, O-line to be tested by Ravens

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Greco, O-line to be tested by Ravens

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Brian Kersey
GREEN BAY, WI - OCTOBER 20: John Greco #77 of the Cleveland Browns stands on the sidelines before the game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on October 20, 2013 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Packers defeated the Browns 31-13. (Photo by Brian Kersey/Getty Images)

The Cleveland Browns’ offense is starting to keep pace with the team’s dominant defense.

While not what you would call a juggernaut yet, the offense has shown a methodical approach to producing points and is ranked No. 13 in the NFL in total yards and No. 6 in scoring.

It’s a far cry from last season when scoring points was like drawing blood from a stone.

And it all starts up front with an offensive line that’s done a good job through two weeks as the Browns have gone 1-1.

“Historically, offensive lines don’t get much credit, and we like that,” right guard John Greco said during a phone interview Thursday. “Our gratification is when the offense is doing well. That’s when we have fun.

“The only time you hear about the O-line is when they allow sacks, and we’re trying our best to keep the quarterback upright. We know things are going well because no one is talking about us. We’re trying to keep that going.”

 In addition to Greco, Cleveland’s line consists of rookie left guard Joel Bitonio, Pro Bowl center Alex Mack, Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas and right tackle Mitchell Schwartz.

According to Greco, Bitonio looks like a seasoned veteran and there has been no drop in performance with him in the starting lineup.

 The 6-foot-4, 318-pound Greco is a guy who flies under the radar. Originally a third-round draft pick of the St. Louis Rams in 2008 as a tackle out of Toledo, he bounced around the O-line before finding his niche at guard.

 “Things were tough in the beginning, but I never hung my head,” he said. “Everyone wants to start and I wasn’t satisfied being a reserve player. I worked every year to step into a starting role. There were a few years where teams didn’t see me as such. They saw me as a guy who was versatile and played multiple positions, so I ran with that in order to achieve my goal.”

 Greco seized an opportunity during the 2012 season when Jason Pinkston was placed on injured reserve. He started 10 games that season and has been a mainstay since.

 However, new Browns offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan’s zone blocking scheme presents another challenge for the seven-year veteran.

 “This year I had to shed some pounds because we’re asked to run more,” Greco said. “It’s a lot of conditioning involved with the new offense. A lot of people think of the offense as not physical and more finesse, but it’s every bit as physical as any other offense I’ve been around.

“I have improved my lateral quickness by dropping weight but I’m still strong in the weight room. We want to make it physical, and in pass protection I want to be stout in the middle. We pride ourselves on holding off the big guys on the D-line.”

Cleveland will face a stout Baltimore defense on Sunday and one can expect the O-line to be tested. This tough divisional matchup could be the game that determines if the Browns are contenders or pretenders.

At least one player believes the Browns will be contenders.

“We’re going to have our hands full,” Greco said. “Baltimore is a physical team and doesn’t do a lot of exotic stuff. They have the talent where they can just line up and beat guys, but we’ll be prepared.

“There is something about the feel of this team that lets you know we’re ready to win. We have a bunch of guys buying into the same goal. We had our first victory last week and everyone had that taste in our mouths. We want to do that again and will do everything we can to have the feeling again this week.”

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