The 2019 NFL season has not gone as planned for the Cleveland Browns. After an embarrassing 38-24 loss to the Arizona Cardinals, the team is now 6-8, a far cry from the high expectations present before the season began. Under-performance, injuries, and poor coaching have killed this team, and the constant moving parts have prevented both sides of the ball from finding any consistency. One such area is the much-maligned Cleveland Browns offensive line, which has actually improved in recent weeks due to the injury of a starter.
Cleveland Browns Offensive Line Needs an Overhaul in the Off-Season
Aside from left guard Joel Bitonio and center J.C. Tretter, the other three spots on the offensive line are weak links. But the weakest link has to be right tackle Chris Hubbard, who signed a five-year $36.5 million contract with Cleveland before the 2018 season, at the behest of new offensive coordinator Todd Haley, who coached Hubbard in Pittsburgh.
It hasn’t been a good investment by any stretch. Hubbard was a poor run blocker and an average pass protector in 2018 and has been significantly worse in both areas this season. Per Pro Football Focus, his pass block grade has fallen from 73.5 to 59.6, and in the run game, he’s dropped from 48.9 to 37.6. Out of 63 eligible tackles, Hubbard ranks 52nd in pass block grade and 61st in run-block grade. He ranks 10th out of all right tackles in salary.
After missing the game against Cincinnati, Hubbard was active against Arizona, but Kendall Lamm started over him. Lamm protected Baker Mayfield rather well against the Bengals, at least, better than Hubbard has. Lamm finished with a 71.2 pass block grade, a solid mark. His 52.1 run block grade was poor but still better than Hubbard.
Against Arizona, Lamm was solid in pass protection and improved his run blocking to a very good 77.7. Unfortunately, he played only 25 snaps before leaving the game because of an injury. This led to Hubbard playing 45 snaps, in what was by far his best performance of the season. For Mayfield’s sake, hopefully, Lamm is healthy enough to start next week against Baltimore.
The other change on the offensive line came at right guard. Eric Kush started the first seven games and struggled in both phases of the game. He graded above 60.0 in both the run and pass games just twice, both times coming in the first two weeks of the season.
Kush was replaced by second-year man Wyatt Teller, who was acquired via trade from the Buffalo Bills in the preseason. Overall, Teller has been better than Kush but is still wildly inconsistent. He played very well against the Bengals, with an 88.2 pass block grade, and then that mark dropped to 39.4. Teller has been an upgrade, but he hasn’t done nearly enough for the Browns to consider him the future of the position.
As a whole, Cleveland ranks 18th in pass block grade and 26th in run-block grade. This makes the fact that Nick Chubb leads the NFL in rushing yards all the more impressive. If he were running behind an offensive line like Philadelphia, New Orleans, or Baltimore, he might already have 2,000 yards. The Browns have many problems to address in the off-season, but their priority has to be upgrading the offensive line. They need two tackles and a guard, and since they’re armed with four picks in the first three rounds, at least two of those selections must be tackles.