Needless to say, the Browns center position has been a roller coaster this year.
After J.C. Tretter was released this past off-season after eight highly-productive seasons in a cost-cutting move, his backup Nick Harris was ready to slide into the position. After some heated competition in training camp, Harris was named the starter.
Then, he tore up his knee on the second play in the first preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
His backup was veteran Ethan Pocic who the Browns signed in free agency. The five-year veteran played the remainder of the first half of the Jaguars game to which undrafted free agent Brock Hoffman took all snaps in the second half.
Into the next week of practice sixth round draft pick Dawson Deaton injured his knee as well. Both Dawson and Harris were added to IR.
Hoffman has had a lot of starts in college at the center position. Cleveland is not college.
In the second preseason game versus Philadelphia, the center positions in the first half was manned by guard Michael Dunn whereas the second half Hjalte Froholdt took every snap at center.
One thing for certain if you are an offensive lineman with the Cleveland Browns – you must have versatility in your toolbox.
On the Browns official depth chart, Dunn is listed as the backup left guard behind Pro Bowler Joel Bitonio while Froholdt is penciled in as the backup to the other Pro Bowl guard Wyatt Teller while Hoffman backs up Pocic.
The start at center for Dunn was a first on his resume. As upsetting as it was to lose Harris so early in the year, other guys are needed to step into those shoes.
Another player who found a role on this 2022 team is Froholdt.
Hjalte Froholdt (pronounced YELL-duh FROH-holt) was born in Svendborg, Denmark. Growing up, football was never on his mind. He had family members who played rugby and as a youngster he watched the game with enthusiasm but not necessarily with a yearning.
At the age of 12, he went out for the American Football team assuming that with all that hitting and tackling this game was the same as rugby. He made the Svendborg Admirals team but only practiced because his team did not have enough players to compete in actual games although they played 7-on-7.
As a teenager he accepted an exchange student program invitation to the United States instead of requesting places like Australia or South America. As he was growing up and was now a bigger guy, Froholdt thought American food was the better choice and heard all of their meals were supersized. Now a sophomore, he landed in Warren, Ohio to attend Harding High School. There, he had another chance to play American Football.
“Some people thought it was pretty hard to pronounce my name, so they just called me ‘Denmark,’” Froholdt told Boston.com. “But it’s not too hard. I guess I’ve had a couple (nicknames) that I really don’t quite remember.”
At Harding he played on both sides of the line plus some tight end and was also the punter. The learning curve did not come easy as the terminology of this new sport was so different than in Denmark. The players were much better athletes, had a lot more speed and could bust his butt on the ground. Froholdt then became a weight room junkie which helped him fill out his beefy frame where he was now 6’-4” and weighed 265 pounds.
After just his first season, he was already getting letters from colleges. He returned to Denmark for a full year to play for the Sollerod Gold Diggers, a U-19 team. Frodholdt then returned to the U.S., but this time landed in Bradenton, Florida where he suited up for prestigious IMG Academy.
Froholdt had numerous Power 5 offers and chose Arkansas. Now tipping the scales at 306 pounds while adding one inch, he was a starter at defensive line in his freshman campaign. The following year he was switched to offensive line where he played 25 games for the next two seasons at left guard. As a senior, in addition to his usual left guard spot he anchored the center position for three games. He was a three-year starter on the offensive line, named Second Team All-SEC plus was a team captain.
His scouting report on NFL.com:
“Froholdt has primarily lined up at guard, but a move to center might give him his best shot as a pro. He has good power to absorb and neutralize at the point of attack, but there just aren’t enough wins as an in-line blocker due to his lack of push. Froholdt also struggles to protect his edges through foot quickness or functional power and he should be able to get the help he needs at center. His ability to play both guard and center strengthens his case to become a solid backup who can step in and start in a pinch.”
He was invited to the Combine where he ran a 5.2 in the 40, bench pressed 31 times, had a vertical jump of 27.5”, and a broad jump of 105 inches.
Onto the NFL
The New England Patriots selected Froholdt in the fourth round of the 2019 NFL draft listed as a guard prospect.
I'm told by a source close to Froholdt that the Patriots see him as a center first, and a guard second. Puts Ted Karras in trouble as the backup center— Ben Volin (@BenVolin) April 27, 2019
The plus with Frodholdt is that he can play either guard or center. He has a long torso coupled with short legs which gives him a lower center of gravity. He possesses short-area quickness with a strong core. The knock on him is that his upper-body does not match his core strength and does not remain engaged although he will win the earliest phase of the block.
Froholdt does love the game of football.
His stay with New England was brief. He become injured in the Patriots final preseason game with a shoulder injury to which he was placed on IR. In late November when he qualified to get back on the main roster coming off IR, he was waived.
Two days later, the Houston Texans claimed him where he found the COVID list followed by a short stint on the active roster followed by the club releasing him followed by being added to the practice squad.
On October 5 of last year right before the game against the Los Angeles Chargers, the Browns signed Froholdt off the Texans practice squad as Cleveland was having multiple offensive lineman issues. He was released just before the bye week, then signed to the practice squad. The club elevated him again on Christmas Eve in Week 16.
During the off-season Cleveland inked him to a reserves/futures contract.
Froholdt has had a good training camp. He has switched between right guard and center and has been pretty proficient so far while getting some reps in practices. Versatility is going to be his savior if he makes the final 53-man roster this year.
Against Philadelphia last weekend, Frodholdt had a great game. Sports Illustrated mentioned the Dane in their post-game write-up:
“Meanwhile, Hjalte Froholdt, the Danish offensive lineman also was effective at both right guard and looked the part at center. He looks like a safe bet to make the active roster to round out the offensive line room should the Browns stick with nine.”
As a run blocker Frodholdt is solid and the reason he is on the Browns roster. He is very strong and has emerged as a key backup player for both guard spots, plus being a center is a huge bonus.
This weekend he will need to play as much of the second half against Chicago as he can to prove he belongs on the active roster. Cut-down day is this upcoming Tuesday when Cleveland will need to trim their roster from 85 to 53.
Last year the Browns kept 10 offensive linemen. As the season rolled along, they needed many more as numerous starters and backups were dropping like flies. GM Andrew Berry has seen the advantage of not only having this many guys on the O-Line again this year, but keeping the ones who offer the ability to step into as many positions as needed.
This describes Frodholdt perfectly.