Browns Film Room: A case to start LeRoy Watson over Geron Christian at left tackle

After his performance against the Cincinnati Bengals, the Cleveland Browns must seriously consider starting LeRoy Watson over Geron Christian at left tackle the rest of the way out.

Many do not even know who LeRoy Watson is. Despite signing with the Browns off of the practice squad of the San Francisco 49ers after the injury to Jedrick Wills, there is not even a picture in our system of him in a Browns uniform. However, we have reached the point, after he saw significant snaps with the reserves in Week 18, where he might be the option to throw out there at left tackle as the team prepares to travel to take on the Houston Texans in two days.

At this point, the Browns are not hoping some Pro Bowl left tackle plugs in and plays. They have seen three offensive tackles suffer season-ending injuries and are scraping the bottom of the barrel. However, the argument here is that Watson is closer to the top of the barrel than Christian is.

Here, we take a look and break down several reps from Watson’s showing against the Bengals.

What is going on with Geron Christian?

Browns LeRoy Watson Geron Christian
Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

But his success was largely a product of an offense that head coach Kevin Stefanski had concocted for Dorian Thompson-Robinson, the quarterback over the first few starts that Christian made.

However, once the transition was made to Flacco, longer developing deep shots and play-action takes, the cracks emerged in Christian’s game. Of all qualifying offensive tackles, there are only five worse pass blockers in the NFL (according to PFF). In terms of pass-blocking efficiency, only six offensive tackles have a lower mark.

Since Flacco took over at quarterback in Week 13, Christian has given up a massive 24 pressures. He gave up three in just 12 offensive snaps on Sunday against the Bengals.

If the Browns are serious about making a run at a Super Bowl, which they are, they must turn over every possible stone to make an upgrade at left tackle.

Background on LeRoy Watson

Browns LeRoy Watson Geron Christian
Mandatory Credit: Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

LeRoy Watson was not even playing offensive tackle two years ago. He was tight end for the UTSA Roadrunners, where he racked up just 300 career receiving yards and two touchdowns.

And looking at his testing numbers, it is clear why Watson decided to switch to offensive tackle at the NFL level.

Browns LeRoy Watson Geron Christian
Browns LeRoy Watson Geron Christian

The cons to Watson's game

Browns LeRoy Watson Geron Christian
(Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports)

There was plenty of ugly from Watson on Sunday against the Bengals as well, however. Again, there is a reason the Browns are the first 53-man roster that Watson made.

In the run game, Watson must do a better job of keeping his eyes up and staying up over his base. When Watson bends at the waist, his eyes follow, throwing off both his balance and his sight on the target. He graded out quite poorly as a run blocker in this game.

In pass protection, a couple of issues arose for Watson as well. While his core strength is solid when he can jump-set the man across from him, he was susceptible to the bull rush when defenders were able to get into his chest. There is also not much of a plan once a defender wipes his hands. As he continues to learn the tackle position and grow, countering and resetting his hands needs stark attention paid to it.

The times are dire for the Browns. In a normal circumstance, we would not be in this position, but Watson still gives the Browns the best chance to win at left tackle.

The pros to Watson's game

Browns LeRoy Watson Geron Christian
Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

Despite this game being the first regular season game where Watson has seen substantial playing time, he flashed a load of things to like about his potential.

Let’s start with the run game. While he did not perform extraordinarily well in this aspect of the game, for the Browns, he did show the ability to climb to the second level with ease and get wide in outside zone looks for Stefanski and his offense. The athletic traits are quite evident when turning on this tape.

Most impressive about Watson’s game against the Bengals, however, was his desire to play from whistle to whistle and look for work. Keeping his head on a swivel, Watson, if not engaged right off the snap in his zone, will find the closest man to him and look to put him on the turf.

He did this three times on Sunday.

For the tl;dr crowd

Browns LeRoy Watson Geron Christian
Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Putting a bow on this whole thing, Watson is nowhere near a perfect offensive tackle. He’s hardly one after playing tight end at UTSA just two years ago. Watson is not even backup quality right now, although the improvements are steady.

His hands are a work in progress, his balance is suspect as he tends to get out over his waist when looking to initiate contact. Watson looks like a player who bulked up and switched positions less than two years ago.

However, the athleticism is there. It is evident in his ability to gain substantial depth in his vertical set and explode off the ball. When he does give up his outside shoulder and gets beat, he shows the quickness to recover and at least provide one last hope of resistance. He gets wide in outside zone looks with ease and climbs to the second level without skipping a beat. Watson can scoop out defensive tackles a gap away, crossing face with confidence.

His willingness to play through the whistle is there, and he’s picked up a thing or two from the likes of Callahan, Trent Williams, and the other offensive tackles he has been in the room with.

There is a reason he is at the bottom of the 53-man roster, and there is a reason why he has not played except for a Week 18 game where all of the starters rotated out. However, today, this week against the Texans, and the rest of the way out, he is a better option than Geron Christian.

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Story originally appeared on Browns Wire