Injuries can derail even the mightiest team in any sport across the spectrum.
And the Cleveland Browns are no exception.
Last year’s offensive line injuries led to a constant shuffling of personnel, sometimes out of their natural positions.
Failures on key downs and even the quarterback struggles can be related to the Browns rotating tackles.
Some appreciation for Blake Hance.
His 2021 (so far) in review:
– Signs with Browns 1 day before Week 17 vs. PIT
– Plays LG and LT snaps in both playoff games
– Plays G and C in preseason
– 4 games (2 starts) at LT
– 6 games (4 starts) at RT
– 18 snaps Sunday as a blocking TE
— Andrew Gribble (@Andrew_Gribble) December 13, 2021
But injuries are a part of life, and the key to roster building is being able to absorb losses seamlessly.
That is easier said than done, especially with a young roster of untested players.
Here are 3 other players the Browns can’t afford to lose to injury.
WR Amari Cooper
Cleveland tempered rumors of another veteran signing by claiming to be happy with their current array of wideouts.
Maybe they prefer to avoid any clashes over target counts in Kevin Stefanski’s offense.
And Grant was signed to fix the team’s return game woes more than as a receiving threat.
— Zach D (@ZachNoah52) May 12, 2022
There is reason for confidence in Donovan Peoples-Jones and rookie David Bell as complements to Amari Cooper.
And Anthony Schwartz provides another deep threat along with Grant.
But Amari Cooper is the only player to warrant extra attention in pregame planning.
And without their lead dawg on the field, the windows close a bit on Deshaun Watson’s other receivers.
Joel Bitonio/Wyatt Teller
Without a doubt, a repeat of last season’s injuries to Cleveland tackles will hurt their offense.
But there may be more reason to worry about losing either of their Pro Bowl guards.
Joel Bitonio and Wyatt Teller are among the best at their craft in the entire NFL.
But this season, they take on the added task of mitigating any growing pains at the center position.
Bitonio, Teller serving up 🥞🥞 and power! pic.twitter.com/VicUtTToKx
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) February 3, 2022
JC Tretter was another reliable component of Cleveland’s highly-ranked offensive line.
And Nick Harris, as confident as the coaches are in him, will take some time to rise to Tretter’s level.
The pair of stalwarts on either side will cover for some of Harris’ weaknesses in pass blocking.
But the loss of either pillar could cause a chain reaction of adjustments, weakening the whole line.
LB Anthony Walker
Joe Woods’ defense is perilously thin at safety, while the cornerback and defensive line depth warrants concern, too.
Injuries at almost any defensive position will require a ripple effect of adjustments.
But Anthony Walker projects to take almost every defensive snap as the director of the Browns linebacking corps.
Woods has 3 faster and younger linebackers who line up better outside the team’s leading tackler, Walker.
#Browns Anthony Walker finished with the 4th-best PFF coverage grade (78.2) and the 8th-most coverage snaps per target (9.3) among qualifying LBs in 2021.
Nice to see him back with the orange and brown. https://t.co/7gjVT9MbVl
— Cody Suek (@CodySuek) March 16, 2022
And the role of Walker’s backup could fall to Tony Fields, who is still waiting for his first NFL defensive snap.
Fields was called a tackling machine out of college but spent his rookie year watching in between special teams plays.
Willie Harvey Jr and UDFA Silas Kelly round out the linebacking corps as the roster stands now.