The Cleveland Browns immediately felt the repercussions from making the move to Hjalte Froholdt at center against the Buffalo Bills, taking the place of the injured Ethan Pocic who left the game with a knee injury. Blocking Vita Vea and Akeem Hicks, the defensive tackles of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers would be a daunting task under the best of circumstances, but the Browns are forced to choose between a guard who can snap in Froholdt or Greg Mancz, a center who signed with the team Tuesday.
The Buccaneers defense has not been nearly as dominant as it was the previous few seasons, but that won't change the fact that the Browns will be facing one of the most imposing defensive tackle pairings in the league. Vea is a few servings of mashed potatoes short of 350 pounds while Hicks is 325 pounds. The sheer size alone will be a challenge.
Given how defenses are working to limit running back Nick Chubb as much as possible, that could provide notable advantage. Head coach Todd Bowles probably won't hesitate sending linebacker Devin White on blitzes through the A and B gaps, something the Bills did with Matt Milano to great success.
Froholdt had some issues acclimating on the fly early in the Bills game, getting beaten off the ball by defenders to blow up plays in the backfield. The Browns also lost a fumble on a snap that didn't get high enough for Jacoby Brissett to grab. In fairness to Froholdt, he got more comfortable as the game progressed, but the damage was done, but he's been playing guard for the Browns in place of Wyatt Teller at right guard for several games.
With more time to prepare, Froholdt theoretically could find his footing and put a better product on the field. Unfortunately, Froholdt missed practice on Wednesday with an illness, so he wasn't able to get a day's worth of work at the position.
That presumably means that the newly signed Mancz is in line to get those reps. Mancz was signed when the team placed Pocic on injured reserve. He is a center by trade, having played the position for six years in the NFL. Five of those seasons were with the Houston Texans, meaning he has familiarity with Deshaun Watson, who is set to take over at quarterback next week.
Seemingly, the injury to Pocic had the Browns pivoting to Mancz to play center with Watson for the length of Pocic's stay on injured reserve. If the Browns were content to have Froholdt play center this week, it would give Mancz a week to get accustomed to the calls and system the Browns run working with one quarterback the entire way.
Wednesday's practice is going to provide the Browns an opportunity to see just how ready Mancz is. They could still end up going back to Froholdt assuming he recovers from the illness quickly and has productive practices the rest of the week. He is a little bit bigger than Mancz which might be preferable against the Bucs hefty front. However, if Mancz can acclimate quickly enough, they might be inclined to just go with him starting on Sunday.
The Browns need to determine who is going to play center this week and figure out a way to keep Vea and Hicks from wrecking their game plan, who have the benefit of coming off of their bye week.