The Browns' offensive line was in bad enough shape even before Sunday. The last thing it needed was to lose its best player.
Yet that's what happened in Sunday's 10-7 loss to the New York Jets when right tackle Ryan Tucker was lost for the season with a torn medial collateral ligament and partially torn meniscus in his left knee. Tucker had arthroscopic surgery last Tuesday.
"It really is disappointing, especially at this time," Tucker said. "We're struggling right now offensively. I want to be in there with those guys. I want to be in there to help. Unfortunately, I'm not going to be able to."
Tucker was hurt when another player fell into his leg on a 4-yard gain by Lee Suggs.
"(Losing) Tucker's going to hurt us," tight end Aaron Shea said. "Tucker's the anchor of the line. I think `Tuck' is one of the best tackles in the game."
Browns coach Butch Davis said Tucker was playing as well as he'd ever seen him.
"I think if you ask him, he'd say the game had really started to slow down for him," Davis said. "For a tackle, that's really a benchmark.
"On a winning football team, he is probably under legitimate consideration for the Pro Bowl. There are people who will argue how can a 3-7 team have anyone deserving of the Pro Bowl. But sometimes, it's possible."
Tucker's loss means the Browns have to replace the right side of the line. Two weeks ago, Kelvin Garmon was lost for the season with torn knee ligaments.
It's unclear how the line will be configured after Tucker's injury for Sunday's game at Cincinnati.
REPORT CARD VS. JETS
PASSING OFFENSE: D -- Jeff Garcia did as well as he could considering the protection around him was typically awful. He somehow wasn't sacked, but that's only because he found a way to get rid of the ball before hitting the ground. That left him exposed to awkward landings, and it caught up to him when he strained his right shoulder on a hit by Shaun Ellis. Garcia's replacement, Kelly Holcomb, was awful. He completed only 4 of 10 passes for 32 yards, half of which came on one completion. The Holcomb who won the starting job in 2003 is nowhere to be found. It doesn't help that Holcomb is far less mobile than Garcia because the line gets beat on a regular basis.
RUSHING OFFENSE: D - The statistics aren't dismal. Lee Suggs and William Green combined for 94 yards in 25 carries. Green had a 21-yard run on Cleveland's only touchdown drive. But the running game again lacked consistency. Too often, the blocking broke down and the runners were hit behind the line and had to lunge to make positive yardage. The Browns tried to use a change of pace by giving the ball to receiver Dennis Northcutt on reverses. He gained 4 yards one time and managed 1 yard the other. The line, as usual, deserves most of the blame. Left guard Enoch DeMar was benched for Paul Zukauskas, then had to re-enter the game when right tackle Ryan Tucker got hurt.
PASS DEFENSE: B - The Browns did an excellent job getting to Quincy Carter early. They sacked him six times, five in the first half. Linebacker Chaun Thompson had two sacks. Carter threw for only 116 yards, and Earl Little intercepted his first pass of the season. But the pass defense failed when it had to come up big. Anthony Henry failed to keep Justin McCareins from lunging forward for a critical third-down conversion on the Jets' winning touchdown drive. Cornerback Daylon McCutcheon, battling turf toe, allowed Santana Moss to beat him for a 13-yard gain. McCareins then eluded a tackle by Michael Lehan on a short swing pass he turned into an 11-yard touchdown.
RUSH DEFENSE: C-minus - As with the pass defense, it was good until it needed to be. The Browns allowed only 86 yards in the first three quarters, then allowed 71 in the final 15 minutes. Early in the game, the Browns did a good job swarming Curtis Martin. But then Martin and LaMont Jordan found plenty of running room on the touchdown drive. That continued when the Browns needed a stop to get one more chance to pull out the victory. But the Jets ran for two first downs to run out the clock.
SPECIAL TEAMS: D-plus - If not for a 52-yard kickoff return by Richard Alston and a 16-yard punt return average by Dennis Northcutt, this phase would be a disaster. Phil Dawson missed field goals of 42 and 34 yards, snapping a 27-kick streak, and also booted a kickoff out of bounds. Derrick Frost failed twice pin the Jets in with punts, driving them far into the end zone for his first two touchbacks of the season.
COACHING: C-minus - The Browns had a sound defensive game plan - to blitz Quincy Carter. But beyond that, there's not much to credit. The Browns again lacked imagination on offense and have not found a way to protect the quarterback. Afterward, Butch Davis seemed almost to throw up his hands and say the fortunes of his team won't improve until the fates somehow turn around. With the injuries and overall lack of talent, that's unlikely to happen - and Davis' own fate hangs in the balance.