Browns go with surprise starter at LT in Harrison

The Sports Xchange

September 07, 2018 at 1:09 pm.

The Cleveland Browns finally settled on a starter at left tackle.

Undrafted rookie Desmond Harrison was named the starter by Browns coach Hue Jackson on Friday and will make his NFL debut in Sunday’s season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Akron Beacon Journal reported.

Harrison is a surprise replacement for longtime standout Joe Thomas, a 10-time Pro Bowl selection and future Hall of Fame who announced his retirement in March.

Joel Bitonio, who was considered the favorite to win the job, will move back to left guard, where he has started 47 games over the past four seasons for Cleveland.

Jackson told reporters he “agonized over the decision” of starting a rookie against a bitter division rival, but said Harrison’s play and work ethic earned him the starting job.

“He’s been outstanding since he’s been here,” said Jackson, per Cleveland.com. “He’s handled everything right. He wouldn’t be here if he hadn’t.”

Harrison entered camp as the unlikeliest candidate to land in the starting lineup. He was signed as a free agent in early May after playing at West Georgia in 2017.

The 6-foot-6, 295-pound Harrison did not play football for three years from 2014-16 and reportedly failed a drug test at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Harrison played in nine games at left tackle last season at West Georgia and earned Division II All-America honors despite missing three contests due to injury.

After transferring from Contra Costa Community College, Jackson appeared in seven games as a reserve lineman for the University of Texas in 2013.

However, Jackson was suspended twice for failing multiple drug tests in 2014, according to the Akron Beacon Journal, and missed the entire season. He was out of football for the following two years before surfacing at West Georgia.

The 24-year-old Harrison was hindered by a toe injury upon his signing by the Browns and missed the first 11 practices and the preseason opener. He played in the next three preseason games and started the finale against the Detroit Lions.