Scouting Report: What Does Ghiaciuc Bring?

He was a mid-round pick who started for four years. So, why has new Browns OL Eric Ghiaciuc been bouncing around since the 2008 season? Bengals expert Marc Hardin talks about his experience in Cincinnati. and the OBR reported earlier today that the Cleveland Browns have signed C Eric Ghiaciuc to a free agent contract, ostensibly to back up starting center Alex Mack.

The signing, on the surface, makes a great deal of sense. The Browns are thin behind Mack at center and, with the exit of stalwart OL Hank Fraley, could use a veteran offensive lineman in case Mack is unavailable.

Ghiaciuc certainly appears to fill that void, having started 42 of 48 games while with the Cincinnati Bengals. Why, then, without a major injury to blame, has Ghiaciuc been unable to stick with the Chiefs and used only as a fill-in for an injury-riddled Chargers squad late last year?

We'll provide an update from our Chargers guru when we get one, but in the meantime, Marc Hardin of Bengals Insider offers his view on why Ghiaciuc might have been available.

Eric Ghiaciuc was an enigma during his four years in Cincinnati. He was a 2005 mid-draft selection out of Central Michigan and regarded as a smart, athletic center. But critics said he struggled too much when it came to calling out the right blocking schemes and had just average foot quickness and lateral movement in pass protection at a time when the Bengals were really slinging it with Carson Palmer. Ghiaciuc also struggled trying to pick up blitzes and he often was overmatched by big nose tackles who were able to push Ghiaciuc off his mark, which created openings for gap rushers.

These were glaring weaknesses in the physical AFC North, where quality nose tackles have been common and where Dick LeBeau's aggressive and deceptive blitz packages for Pittsburgh always seemed to overwhelm Ghiaciuc when the bitter rivals met twice a year. The Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns followed the blueprint: Disguise blitzes against the Bengals and bull-rush Ghiaciuc. Suddenly, he was a liability in all six division games; nearly 40 percent of the schedule, at least.

Though Ghiaciuc started 16 games at center for the first time in 2008 -- a testimony to good health, which had been a minor problem up until then -- all that exposure against the rest of the league emboldened the Bengals with the belief that he was, at 6-4 and a soft 300 pounds, just too small for the power running attack Marvin Lewis wanted to go back to this season after the team relied too much on the passing game for three years. So the Bengals chose not to re-sign Ghiaciuc after his rookie contract expired following the conclusion of last season. Since then, Ghiaciuc hasn't been able to stick with the Kansas City Chiefs after a brief trial.

Though Ghiaciuc, 28, isn't a lost cause, he apparently has yet to become strong enough in the lower body to maintain leverage against large defensive linemen, and it wouldn't hurt if he gained explosion in his upper body so he simply isn't thrown to the side. As a fill-in, the Chargers could do worse than a guy who has started 42 of 48 games in the league. There's some valuable experience there, but he's better suited in zone-blocking schemes so his lack of one-on-one skills aren't fully exposed.

There's a reason why Ghiaciuc hasn't stuck with an NFL team since 2008. He's not big enough nor strong enough to do his job well against quality defensive linemen, especially when operating in passing schemes. Instead of providing quality pass protection, he puts the quarterback at risk.

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