Changes on the Line?

With attention focused on when Kelly Holcomb will be able to play again, another critical matter seems to lack for attention: the offensive line. The Browns have been unable to mount a credible running game this season, and David Carducci reports from Berea that changes may be in the offing. Here's the very latest, and subscribers get it first...

BEREA - The Cleveland Browns' struggles in the running game are about to signal a change on the offensive line.

Averaging just 3.2 yards per carry and ranking 28th in the NFL have been a sour subject in the Browns locker room this week.

"That's not a subject that's touchable" a frustrated Barry Stokes said Thursday afternoon. "I have nothing positive to say about that topic."

It looks like the solution to the Browns rushing woes is a change at both guard spots. When Stokes was asked Thursday about how he has gelled with second-year lineman Melvin Fowler in three games starting on the left side of the line, the veteran left tackle was clearly uncomfortable.

"I don't want to talk about that right now" he said. "Let's just leave that alone."

It was an alarming change of attitude from Sunday when Stokes said after a 13-12 win over the 49ers that he felt he was finally starting to "get things together" with Fowler in the second half.

The Browns seem to have lost some confidence in Fowler's ability to play left guard, at least for this week against a Bengals. The team is worried that Fowler can not handle the constant stunts typical of the Bengals defensive tackles, and it is looking more and more like he will be replaced by Paul Zukauskas in the starting lineup.

If Zukauskas does move into the lineup, it will be just the third starting assignement in his three years with the Browns.

A likely switch would have Zukauskas taking over at right guard to take advantage of his 320-pound size on what is a predominantly right-handed offense. His adjustment to a starting role would be made easier by putting him next to the team's best offensive lineman, right tackle Ryan Tucker. Zukauskas has been the short-yardage right guard in some formations this season.

If that does happen, Shaun O'Hara would move from right to left guard, a position that is a better fit for his size and athleticism.

HYBL GETTING THE CALL - Rookie Nate Hybl will be moved from the practice squad to the 53-man roster, possibly as soon as Friday.

The Browns have until 4 p.m. Saturday to make the move, but according to a source close to the team, they have already decided to bring up Hybl. The Browns still hope Kelly Holcomb's ankle will respond to treatment and allow him to be Tim Couch's backup Sunday, but it looks more and more likely that he will be the emergency No. 3 quarterback.

According to Davis, Holcomb did about 25-percent more in Thursday's practice than he was capable of on Wednesday.

INJURY UPDATES - Dennis Northcutt looks like he will return to action Sunday against the Bengals. After missing last week?s game in San Francisco and Wednesday?s practice with a chest injury, Northcutt returned to work Thursday afternoon.

Stokes was also back at practice Thursday after resting his injured right ankle Wednesday.

BIG PLAY RECOGNIZED - Andre Davis' game-winning 11-yard touchdown catch from Kelly Holcomb has been named the NFL Play of the Week as presented by Levitra.

Davis' grab is now eligible to be named the NFL's Play of the Year, which will be awarded during Super Bowl week in Houston.

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