The issues for the Cleveland Browns this season have not been as simple as many would prefer. It would be nice if the blame could fall directly on one decision, one player, one coach or one injury. Instead, the Browns season has been mired in failures on special teams, defense and offense. Cleveland has dealt with injuries, mistakes and decisions that haven’t, yet, panned out.
With the 2022 season all but done for the Browns, we will still be breaking down what we saw, preparing for the last four games of the season all while preparing for what 2023 could have in store.
One under-discussed issue for Cleveland has been injuries to the center position. While injuries happen in football all the time, they become highly problematic in two cases: A major injury to a major star or when multiple injuries happen in the same unit. The Browns have escaped the former but had issues with the latter.
On top of the center position, linebacker has seen three players go out for the season this year.
At center, Hjalte Froholdt has stepped in as the primary snapper the last three games. Frodholt replaced Ethan Pocic who replaced Nick Harris. Frodholt wasn’t even supposed to be in the role as both Michael Dunn (on IR with a back issue) and rookie Dawson Deaton (out of the year with a knee injury) would have stepped in for Pocic.
Given that Frodholt was, likely, the fifth option at center, he has been an abject failure but he has struggled significantly including being a part of this:
Browns OL since week 9 has graded as the 2nd worst in the NFL.— John Kosko (@JohnKosko3) December 11, 2022
For the year, Pro Football Focus (where the above tweet’s information is coming from) has Froholdt with a 44.7 pass-blocking grade and a 71.4 run-blocking grade. Over the last three games, where he has been the center, his abysmal pass blocking has stayed in the mid-40s but his run blocking grade has dropped with grades of 50.1, 65.9 and 65.7.
For reference, Pocic’s year-to-date run-blocking grade is 84.3 and his pass-blocking is 67.5.
The offensive line is like a chain, the weak link gets exposed and causes problems for the rest. While the entire blame can’t be placed on Froholdt, he only stepped in as the full-time center in Week 11, an injury to Wyatt Teller also forced him into heavy action at guard earlier this year when the team’s line started to struggle.
In the end, the third starting center (and fifth option at the position) is unlikely to play well. Pocic’s injury (as well as Teller’s) and Froholdt’s poor performance isn’t the only reason the offense is struggling but it is a piece of the equation. Unfortunately, it is tough to find one or two good centers at the NFL level much less three, four or five like the Browns have had to deal with this year. Besides health, nothing fixes that kind of problem.
Are you surprised how poorly Froholdt has graded out at center compared to Pocic?