We are now just four games into the 2023 NFL season, and even with the bye week the Cleveland Browns continue to rack up the injuries, but this time on the offensive side of the ball.
Jack Conklin (right tackle) was first, going down with a season-ending injury in Week 1. Rookie Dawand Jones has stepped up big in his place, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. Then last week Ethan Pocic (center) left the game with an upper-body injury and was replaced by Nick Harris.
We also can’t forget the gruesome injury to Nick Chubb, and then just when the offense appears to be hitting a rhythm, down goes Deshaun Watson. After what felt like a precautionary holdout of Watson last week, he still isn’t practicing even after the bye week. I wouldn’t be as nervous about this, but it was crystal clear that Dorian Thompson-Robinson isn’t ready to be an NFL starter.
If that isn’t enough bad news for you, now Joel Bitonio is in crutches with no real update on exactly what his injury is. Kevin Stefanski said it was day-to-day, but even if he can go and is at higher risk of exiting the game, this Browns offensive line is extremely thin.
In a worst-case scenario vs. the San Francisco 49ers who have one of the best front four in the game on defense, you could be down Conklin, Pocic, and Bitonio. That leaves you with James Hudson and Michael Dunn as replacement options, and if anyone must exit the game on Sunday, you’re talking about practice squad guys coming in as replacements.
The toughest pill to swallow is how bad this group has been this season already. I’ve been petitioning to have Jedrick Wills replaced since the second preseason game, and Wyat Teller continues to prove he is a one-trick pony as he gets bullied into the backfield on every single pass play.
There's no doubt that there are some major issues right now with this team. Some are questioning if Watson’s heart is in Cleveland, and it’s very apparent that there is a lack of trust and chemistry between him and Stefanski.
I’ll still make the argument that this offensive line is most of the issues on this team right now. If Denver is going to have a fire sale and these injuries keep piling up, Andrew Berry may need to make a move to keep this season alive.