The Cleveland Browns were widely known for the better part of two decades for having an issue at the quarterback position.
While less prominent, the situation at right tackle was not any better after Mitchell Schwartz signed with the Kansas City Chiefs in free agency following the 2015 season.
General manager Andrew Berry took the appropriate steps to rectify that particular problem this offseason by signing Jack Conklin in free agency.
“For his career, Conklin ranks 13th among 109 qualifying tackles in negatively graded run block rate (a stable factor in tackle play). After signing a monster deal with the Browns, Conklin will fit like a glove in Kevin Stefanksi’s zone-heavy scheme.”https://t.co/e39vA9mQ4D— PFF CLE Browns (@PFF_Browns) August 3, 2020
While Conklin has a few holes in his game and may not be on the same level as Schwartz - few players at the tackle position are - Conklin is still talented enough to come in at No. 13 on Pro Football Focus’ ranking of the top 25 offensive tackles overall in the league:
Just like (Taylor) Lewan, Conklin was a key cog in Tennessee’s potent rushing attack — for his career, Conklin ranks 13th among 109 qualifying tackles in negatively graded run block rate (a stable factor in tackle play). After signing a monster deal with the Browns, Conklin will fit like a glove in Kevin Stefanksi’s zone-heavy scheme. His pass-protection isn’t nearly as good as some around him on this list, but it’s well above-average and far from a liability.
Left tackle has also been an issue the past two seasons, so along with signing Conklin, the Browns selected Jedrick Wills Jr. in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft to take over at left tackle.
Despite the Browns’ offensive line paving the way to PFF’s top-ranked team rushing grade (88.8) last season, pass protection proved to be a much more difficult task. Read how the team turned a position of weakness into one of comparable strength:https://t.co/nocbiJZf91— PFF CLE Browns (@PFF_Browns) August 4, 2020
The additions of Conklin and Wills have turned a weakness into a strength, according to Solomon Wilcots at Pro Football Focus, who highlighted the work the Browns have put into the offensive line:
The inequities between the offensive tackles’ and the interior members’ performances in pass protection was immediately addressed this offseason. (Greg) Robinson’s overall grade ranked 45th out of 93 tackles with a minimum of 100 snaps, so the Browns used their first-round pick on Alabama’s Jedrick Wills to serve as his replacement. (Chris) Hubbard fell even lower in the rankings (64th) after allowing 38 quarterback pressures (78th), prompting the Browns to sign Jack Conklin in free agency.
Alabama’s Jedrick Wills is an explosive and agile player who played all 760 snaps last season at right tackle, so it will take him some time to adjust as a left tackle in the NFL. He excels in run blocking (90.1) and is also known to anchor well against a bull rush in pass coverage.
Conklin’s 38th-ranked pass-block grade (72.3) last season offers an upgrade over Hubbard. He is a traditional right tackle who excels primarily in the run game, where his powerful base helped fuel the Tennessee Titans‘ run game in 2019. Conklin may require some help in pass protection, but his 80.5 run-blocking grade ranked sixth among tackles. The Browns are expected to lean more heavily on the run while working in Kevin Stefanski’s new offense in 2020, which would bode well for road graders like Wills and Conklin.
It is refreshing to see a Browns front office highlight an glaring weakness and take steps to improve it in a significant way.