5 Cleveland Browns who are truly worthy but under-appreciated
2. Ethan Pocic
Ethan Pocic is a player that you may not have heard of. The main reason you might hear the center’s name called on TV is if there is a bad snap or a penalty, and that just has not happened very often this season.
Second, Browns center J.C. Tretter was nudged into retirement this offseason, with the intention of replacing him with Nick Harris. They also drafted Dawson Deaton in 2022 for additional insurance. However, both Harris and Deaton wound up on Injured Reserve.
Next man up was Pocic, who started 40 games at center for the Seattle Seahawks. Pocic never made much of an impression on anyone, though Pro Football Focus did grade his last year with the team significantly higher than his first three years. However, he missed time in 2021 with a knee injury and started only 10 games.
So Pocic became the starter for the Browns and he has actually excelled at the position. He currently grades second overall according to Pro Football Focus. Not second on the Browns. Second overall among centers in the entire NFL.
He has no doubt been helped by playing for cerebral tactician Bill Callahan, the veteran offensive line coach for the Browns. Callahan preaches mystifying concepts of offensive line play, which he describes as a Wide Zone.
Callahan is teaching the linemen how to upset defenders with advanced attacking hand techniques such as “Two-hand Pendulum Strikes” and “Pendulum Combinations.” Callahan’s instructional sessions with his linemen are quite a bit like martial arts sessions.
Watching the workouts at open workout sessions in the summer, it doesn’t even look like football. They use protective pads similar to boxing gloves, and Joe Thomas drills them with high-speed punches, elbows, and knife-hand strikes. Callahan says that Browns offensive linemen have had very few head injuries, as an unintended result of the many hand techniques that they use compared to other offensive linemen around the league.
In other words, playing offensive line in Cleveland is weird. It’s a little bit like joining the Shaolin Temple and learning Kung Fu. In general, center is a position that usually takes years to learn to play, anyway. As Yogi Berra explained, 90 percent of the game is half mental. Pocic seems to have become a disciple.
Thus Pocic may not have been a special player for the Seattle Seahawks, but coming to Cleveland and learning Callahan’s system may have taken him to a different level. Pocic, like Jack Conklin, is not on contract for next season. These players along with Jacoby Brissett will result in compensatory picks if the Browns do not sign expensive free agents in 2023. This seems likely given that their roster dollars are already spent.