The center position was the black hole of death for the Cleveland Browns last season. Can JC Tretter turn the black hole into a position of strength?
Newly acquired Cleveland Browns center JC Tretter recently met with the media. During his time, he detailed his approach to center. More importantly, he described exactly how he was going to solidify the center position after last year’s disaster.
Last season the center position was the black hole of death. After star Alex Mack left, the position just seemed to collapse on itself leaving destruction in its wake. Every player who attempted to play the position either had communication issues, blocking issues or got hurt via freak accidents.
It was clear after last season that rebuilding the Browns needed to start with fixing the center position. The Browns addressed the center position by bringing in JC Tretter.
During his recent session with the media, Tretter said a few things that should give Browns fans hope when it comes to both center and the offensive line.
First, communication was an absolute disaster for the Browns offensive line last season. Who can forget the Thursday Night Football play in which Spencer Drango seemingly allowed a player to sack Josh McCown untouched?
As much as fans would all like to, who can forget the fact that each quarterback either did or did not make line protection calls? At times, communication was non-existent.
The problem with communication last season fell squarely on the lack of a veteran presence at center. But Tretter is changing that. When asked how OTA’s were going (as seen in the video embedded in this post) he immediately addressed the issue of communication:
"Going well. I think a lot of it is just getting on the same page communication-wise. We try to start a group and meet as much as we can. After practice, we will go and watch the film ourselves and then talk through our calls. So much of the game on the offensive line is communication, making sure everyone knows the calls and what we expect out of each other, where we are supposed to be. When you come into a new team, you want to really get on the same page there. With guys like (OL) Joel (Bitonio), Joe (Thomas) and (John) Greco who arenâ€™t practicing right now, I try to take such questions to them â€“ how would you block this? What are your thoughts if I call this? Just try to get on the same page."
Not only is getting on the same page important for the offensive line, it is the center’s job to make sure it happens. In years past, one had to wonder if the center was even aware that it was his job. But now, Tretter is getting everyone on the same page, including the quarterbacks.
When asked about working with multiple quarterbacks he stated:
"You try to talk to each and every one of them because you know that you are going to work with all of them throughout the year. You try to talk to all of them, make sure they are all on the same page and you are on the same page with them on what the call is. Everything else works itself out."
Getting them together is the sign of a center who takes communication seriously. If one quarterback goes down, Tretter should be able to help the new quarterback make the calls. This will ease transition so Browns fans can witness less unblocked defenders hammering a quarterback.
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Plus it will help the offense stay on the same game plan without too much drop off if quarterbacks do happen to change during the season (which always happens).
Tretter has played multiple positions over the years. Playing linemen at center, guard and tackle is not an effective long-term strategy for developing for center. The Browns have done a poor job of developing a young Cameron Erving from the time he became a Brown due to his continual changing positions.
Tretter focused on one position last season with the Green Bay Packers. The result was a better grasp of the footwork necessary to play the position, as he explained:
"The more you can play one position the more set in your feet, your steps, and everything feels more fluid. When you are bouncing around from center to tackle to guard, you know, right side, left side. Sometimes your feet get a little messed up when you are at different positions. It’s nice to work at one spot to hit all the fundamentals at one position."
This quote embodies the change taking place at center. The Browns all but ruined Cameron Erving by playing him all over the place then expecting him to step in and solidify center immediately. Now the Browns are allowing Tretter to focus solely on center.
Focusing on center, which means focusing on communication, will pay great dividends when it comes to creating a successful offense.