Cleveland Browns general manager Andrew Berry headed into the 2020 offseason knowing that he had to fix the offensive line if the Browns were going to have any chance at success.
Berry brought in a new starting left tackle via the draft in Jedrick Wills Jr. and a new starting right tackle via free agency in Jack Conklin. They joined incumbents Joel Bitonio at left guard and JC Tretter at center, along with right guard Wyatt Teller, who worked hard in the offseason to transform from a marginal player to one of the league’s best at his position.
Finally, head coach Kevin Stefanski added one of the top offensive line coaches in the game by hiring Bill Callahan to be a member of his coaching staff.
There were a few bumps along the way with injuries, but the offensive line worked through it to help the Browns finish the season ranked third in rushing yards, tied for fifth in rushing yards per carry, fifth in rushing touchdowns, second in runs of 20-plus yards, and allowing just 26 sacks.
That collective effort helped carry the Browns to the playoffs for the first time since 2002 and earned the offensive line Pro Football Focus’ top ranking as the league’s best unit:
This is the culmination of an offseason dedicated to improving the offensive line and improving players such as Wyatt Teller who were already in Cleveland. The Browns closed the 2019 regular season ranked 23rd on this same list, and we jumped them to sixth in the league entering the 2020 season following the additions of Jedrick Wills Jr. in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft and Jack Conklin in free agency.
Those two additions bolstered the weakness that the Browns had at tackle in 2019, particularly at right tackle. Conklin ended the 2020 season as the highest-graded right tackle in the league at 84.3 overall, and he was the only right tackle in the NFL to allow a pressure rate below 3.0% on 250 or more pass-blocking snaps (2.9%).
The biggest surprise on the line, though, was the man to Conklin’s left — Wyatt Teller at right guard. Teller’s 92.9 PFF grade on the year also led his position, and it served as a massive year-over-year improvement from the 56.7 overall grade we saw from him in 2019. No guard earned a positive grade on a higher percentage of his run-blocking snaps than Teller did.
Offensive line coach Bill Callahan deserves a lot of credit for the job he has done with this group this season.
It is a well-deserved honor for the linemen, and veteran Chris Hubbard deserves an honorable mention for the work he did filling in during the season while Teller dealt with various injuries.
The Browns will be without Bitonio and Callahan for Sunday’s playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers due to COVID-19, as well as the injured Hubbard, unfortunately, which makes the task a bit harder.
But if the rest of the group can play at the same level they have all year, the Browns have a real chance to walk off the field with their first road playoff win since 1969.