The Browns‘ preseason opener against the Jaguars did not go as planned.
Granted, the team dispatched a poor Jacksonville team and saw excellent play from rookie Jerome Ford.
But Deshaun Watson’s play under center was dreadful and the starting unit looked awfully disjointed at times.
Speaking of center, perhaps the biggest loss came along the offensive line.
Center Nick Harris went was carted off the field with a suspected knee injury, one that will likely cost Harris the entire season.
Harris figured to be a major contributor to an offensive line that PFF rated No. 3 in the NFL.
But on Monday, things went from bad to worse at center for the Browns.
In the wake of Harris’ injury, everyone on the depth chart bumped up a slot.
That includes Dawson Deaton, who was Cleveland’s third-string center when Harris was healthy.
On Monday, however, the depth chart got a little lighter.
NFL Network’s Mike Garofolo reported that Deaton, like Harris, suffered a season-ending injury:
An MRI confirmed #Browns C Dawson Deaton suffered a torn ACL in practice today, sources say. After Cleveland lost starter Nick Harris the other day, another player at the position goes down. Ethan Pocic and Brock Hoffman still standing, though.
— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) August 16, 2022
In any other situation, losing Deaton wouldn’t be a doomsday scenario for the Browns.
But in the wake of Harris’ injury, the loss of yet another center puts even more focus on the position.
Fortunately, the Browns still have backup Ethan Pocic, who was elevated to the top of the depth chart after Harris’ injury.
Pocic came to the Browns by way of Seattle, where he spent several seasons after being selected in the second round of the 2017 draft.
He’s hardly a player of Harris’ caliber, but can still ably fill the void for now.
If the Browns don’t like what they see in Pocic, perhaps a reunion is in the cards?
One of the key reasons Harris was starting this season was because the Browns cut veteran center J.C. Tretter for cap space.
And Tretter is still an unsigned free agent.
It’s now been 47 days since Sue Robinson’s hearing ended, and we still don’t have a resolution on the Deshaun Watson situation… #Browns
— Jake Trotter (@Jake_Trotter) August 16, 2022
If the Browns do have interest in Tretter, he would likely fit right back into their offensive scheme.
Last season, Tretter was a strong contributor along the Browns’ offensive line, as explained by USA Today’s Mark Schofield:
“While pass protection is certainly a huge part of the game, what Tretter offers in the running game should not be ignored. During his time in Cleveland, particularly the past few seasons, he was part of one of the better run-blocking offensive lines in the league.
“During the 2020 season, the Browns had one of the league’s best rushing attacks. Cleveland gained 2,374 yards on the ground — third most in the league — and averaged 148.4 yards per game, also third-most in the league. Even last year, when the Browns struggled, their running game remained a strength.”
Tretter might be an excellent stopgap option under center this season.
Pocic will have several more preseason games to establish himself as Cleveland’s center for the season.
But if he can’t, the Browns might have to seriously mull over a move for Tretter.
The Browns need the offensive line to hold up this season; as it stands, the team is one bad hit away from Josh Rosen or Josh Dobbs taking over under center.