Last year we thought we’d introduce ourselves to Mike Holmgren by offering a report of each position group. The reports contained a ‘Roster Upgrade Advisory System’ not unlike that of homeland security. This year, even though the big show has been around for a year, and has Tom Heckert in house, we thought we’d give the reports another shot. First up- the Offensive Line.
Right out of the gate these reports are difficult because of the great uncertainty surrounding the league. Add to that the extremely high number of players that are free agents, and you have a red hot mess.
If you had to list a team strength, offensive line might be near the top of that list. It may just be by default, or because of Thomas and Mack’s inclusion on the Pro Bowl roster. Whatever the case, an offensive line is only as good as it’s weakest link, and wow do the Browns have a weakness on the right side of the line.
The Browns finished the season with a 4.0 yards per carry average on the ground, which placed them 21st in the league in that category. That stat may be a bit deceiving. Over the last third of the season it could be argued that Cleveland’s opponents dared the Browns to try and pass by stacking the box in an effort to shut down a very banged up Peyton Hillis.
The instability on the right side of the line was partially a product of player rotation due to injuries. Pashos, Lauvao, Womack and St. Clair all missed time with various injuries. Tony Pashos was signed with the expectation of winning that right tackle spot, providing depth and security. Instead he was injured in camp and spent hardly any time on the field at all.
Rookie guard Shawn Lauvao looked great in camp and preseason, but was hurt right before the start of the regular season and struggled a bit once he finally got a chance to play. With an off-season to work out and another camp’s worth of work he could easily vie for a starting spot however.
Shawn Lauvao, Alex Mack, Pat Murray, Tony Pashos, Eric Steinbach, Joe Thomas and Steve Vallos.
Floyd Womack is a free agent. John St. Clair has already been sent packing. (On a personal note, I don’t know what to do if I can’t call anyone ‘the Turnstile’ anymore.) If healthy, the right side of the line might have been Lauvao and Pashos even if Womack and St. Clair would have been brought back. Womack still has value, but it is more likely that he moves on seeking a starting job and money. Which leaves us with very little depth.
The most important signing the Browns could make on the O-line in the offseason would be to extend Joe Thomas. He is a franchise left tackle, and the Browns do not want to get into a bidding war next year for him. They obviously need to add depth, which they will do. It would be wise to sign or draft an eventual replacement for Eric Steinbach, who is really expensive for the production he gives.
Browns Roster Upgrade Advisory Level- Guarded
I’d love to have Pro-Bowlers at every position along the line. It just isn’t feasible. Pashos and Lauvao will be better this coming season than what we had last year. Of course the Browns need to add depth, but so does everyone else with this record number of free agents.
With all the holes on this team, the offensive line is the least of their worries. Sign Thomas.