When coach Hue Jackson joined the Cleveland Browns last winter as part of a fresh new front office, there were a handful of questionable players left on the roster whose respective fate didn’t look good. Jackson and crew made it apparent early that, if there were concerns about your ability to help this team moving forward, you were likely to be sent to greener pastures.
In the time since, the Browns have indeed purged a good deal of players for one reason or another. Whether it was due to being on the wrong side of their career (Donte Whitner, Karlos Dansby), showed minimal promise despite draft status (Justin Gilbert) or who valued trips to Vegas more than concussion treatment (Johnny Manziel).
Last year’s first-round pick, center Cam Erving, survived the cuts, a move that surprised more than a few. Despite being a high selection in 2015, the former Florida State Seminole struggled mightily last season. That said, when Cleveland let Pro Bowler Alex Mack walk in free agency, it opened up an opportunity for Erving to prove his worth as the team’s starting center.
A bruised lung suffered in Week 2 set him back a bit, forcing him to miss three games. However, in the limited time Erving has been on the field, one thing has been made quite clear – he’s still miles away from being a viable starting center. As a result, the Browns need to start looking at ways to get him out of the lineup.
For what it’s worth, Erving has always been up-front about his NFL career to date. He admitted last season was a rough one, and hasn’t gone the Gilbert route of claiming his play was flawless despite a large amount of game film proving otherwise.
That said, honesty only gets you so far. An ability to play is far more important, and we’ve yet to see Erving display much of that.
This past week, Erving made his return as Cleveland visited the Tennessee Titans. The goal for a team which has already been forced to play five different quarterbacks this year was simple – keep rookie Cody Kessler as healthy as possible.
Said task was made quite difficult when the QB was under pressure within milliseconds of getting the ball. While this isn’t all Erving’s fault, he hardly looked like someone capable of protecting a quarterback.
Numerous replays in the Browns’ loss to Tennessee featured Erving either missing his block or getting bowled over with ease. Also seen in this footage was Kessler running for his life.
In his short career, this kind of scenario is quite common for Erving. For reasons obvious, this isn’t ideal.
Erving’s inability to block consistently is already bad enough. Coupled with his struggles at snapping the ball, it only makes things worse.
Shotgun situations were an issue for Erving through most of camp. The problem reared its ugly head in Week 1, just as the Browns had clawed back into a game against the Philadelphia Eagles. Having just cut the deficit to three and forcing a punt, Cleveland’s attempt to take the lead was immediately thwarted when Erving’s snap flew over Robert Griffin III‘s head, resulting in a safety.
While such a situation hasn’t happened since, it’s tough not to be concerned about a center who can’t block and occasionally struggles with snaps. Seeing as these are the two basic functions of someone in Erving’s position, it forces you to wonder just how much longer his leash is.
Quite frankly, his window of opportunity should be shutting soon. The rate at which Cleveland’s quarterbacks are dropping this year is alarming enough, there’s no need to add to it by putting them behind a center who can’t protect anyone.
The Browns don’t exactly have a ton of options in terms of replacement. The most feasible is to move guard John Greco back to center. He’s held his own in doing so this year, and though it would thin an already depleted line, right now it looks much more appealing than continuing to run Erving onto the field.
Cleveland’s front office has told us from the get-go its looking only for players who can help this team grow in the long-term. A center who struggles mightily at his job doesn’t seem to fit that bill. As a result, the Browns have to find a way to move on from Erving.