Great football teams win the game in the trenches. Teams such as the Cleveland Browns have struggled for years due to the lack of quality and depth where the game is ultimately won or lost.
In those trenches.
In what could only be described as a head scratcher, the Browns carry the least amount of offensive linemen on their active roster of any team in the AFC North.
Interestingly, the Browns carry eight offensive linemen in the regular season opener against the Minnesota Vikings. Of those eight, two (C Alex Mack and Phil Trautwein) are rookies and veteran Rex Hadnot has been out of camp for weeks due to a knee injury.
What the Browns do have going for them along the offensive line is versatility.
Starters Floyd Womack (RG) and John St. Clair (RT) are experienced at other positions along the line, Womack at guard and tackle, while St. Clair has worked at center, guard and tackle during his career.
Hank Fraley, the starting center the past two seasons, will be passing the torch along to the rookie Mack while he receives reps in practice sessions at guard, as well as at his customary position.
The Browns help their cause in starting four veteran offensive linemen. The concern lies with the depth.
Getting down to the gist of the situation, LG Eric Steinbach replaces LT Joe Thomas in the event of injury, with Fraley replacing Steinbach. If Womack goes down, Hadnot replaces him, or if St. Clair injured, Womack slides to RT, and the less than 100-percent Hadnot replaces him.
Due to Hadnot's injury status, no one really knows if the veteran is ready to contribute. Missing two-thirds of training camp, one has to question whether Hadnot is physically ready to go, injured or not.
Then imagine multiple injuries along the line. That would mean Trautwein, waived by the St. Louis Rams, could immediately be thrust into action. Let's not forget, Mack may be a first-round draft selection, but he is a rookie.
Eric Mangini often talks about a team, a player being versatile.
When looking at the makeup of the roster along the offensive line, the head coach may be cutting it thin along that unit.
Mangini is going to be a genius or we'll view a catastrophic breakdown along the offensive line.
In either regard, Mangini has done it his way.