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Cleveland Browns Training Camp 2021: OL Preview (Part 1)

The Browns’ starting offensive line.

NFL: AFC Divisional Round-Cleveland Browns at Kansas City Chiefs Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

This will be broken down into three parts, beginning with the starting offensive line: Jedrick Wills, Joel Bitonio, JC Tretter, Wyatt Teller, and Jack Conklin.


Pittsburgh Steelers v Cleveland Browns Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images

1. Jedrick Wills Jr. - Starting LT

Height: 6-4 | Weight: 312 lbs | Age: 22
Experience: 2 years | College: Alabama

Your offensive line is pretty damn good when a player like Jedrick Wills would be ranked fifth out of five players. Wills, the tenth overall pick from a year ago, had a solid rookie season, playing in 15 games and battling through a couple of injuries. My primary evaluation of a rookie offensive tackle isn’t whether they play at a dominant level right away, but rather whether they can bring some stability for their quarterback. Wills overcame the adjustment of moving from right tackle to left tackle despite a COVID-shortened offseason, a testament to offensive line coach Bill Callahan.

Wills only allowed 19 pressures on the season according to Pro Football Focus, which represented a significant upgrade for the Browns at the position. He will need to cut down on some of his penalties, but his pass blocking as a rookie was very encouraging. Of course, it helps that Cleveland had Pro Bowl caliber players at four of the other five spots on the line. Wills’ run blocking left quite a bit to be desired, though.

You expect top-talented players to take big steps forward from one year to the next, so as crazy as it may sound, the Browns’ top-ranked offensive line could be poised to get significantly better in 2021. PFF says “Wills’ explosiveness in the run game will be an asset if he cleans up some technique issues.”

Final Roster Odds: 100%


Indianapolis Colts v Cleveland Browns Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

2. Joel Bitonio - Starting LG

Height: 6-4 | Weight: 320 lbs | Age: 29
Experience: 8 years | College: Nevada

Entering his eighth year in the NFL, Joel Bitonio hasn’t quite entered Joe Thomas’ level of notoriety, but he’s definitely one of the best and most consistent guards in the NFL year in and year out. It was crushing to think that Bitonio had to miss the Browns’ playoff game against Pittsburgh — but he did end up getting to play a week later against the Chiefs.

In Kevin Stefanski’s offense, Bitonio posted the best run-blocking season of his career, according to Pro Football Focus, who gave him a grade of 81.8 in that department. In addition, he’s received a pass-blocking grade of 85.0 each year since 2017, and after allowing a sack in Week 1, he didn’t yield another one for the remainder of the season. For there being 64 starting offensive guards in the NFL, it’s a ridiculous luxury for a team to have two of the top ten:

Final Roster Odds: 100%


Pittsburgh Steelers v Cleveland Browns Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images

3. JC Tretter - Starting C

Height: 6-4 | Weight: 307 lbs | Age: 30
Experience: 9 years | College: Cornell

More accolades from PFF: J.C. Tretter received a career-high grade of 81.0 in 2020, which ranked second among all centers. Cleveland drafted OL Nick Harris last year, with scouting reports touting Harris’ zone blocking experience. It was thought that Harris could have been drafted as the eventual replacement for Harris, but with as well as Tretter as played, that probably shouldn’t even be a consideration now (he is under contract through 2022).

Additionally, Tretter is entering his second season as president of the NFLPA. Despite all of the extra distractions and duties Tretter had in dealing with representing the players during a pandemic, he still performed at a high level.

Final Roster Odds: 100%


Cleveland Browns v Tennessee Titans Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

4. Wyatt Teller - Starting RG

Height: 6-4 | Weight: 307 lbs | Age: 29
Experience: 8 years | College: Cornell

By far, the biggest surprise of the 2020 season was the ascent of Wyatt Teller into the best run blocking guard in the NFL. Week in and week out, he was manhandling defenders or bulldozing two players to help spring Nick Chubb or Kareem Hunt for a big run. In run blocking, Teller earned a grade of 93.6 from Pro Football Focus, which is astronomically good. Look at the stark contrast in how the running game performed with and without Teller in the starting lineup:

Teller’s pass protection is the element of his game that needs improvement in 2021. Although I wouldn’t say Teller was a liability in pass protection, he seemed to have one or two whiffs per game that would kill or disrupt the offensive play. His pass-blocking grade by PFF was only a 61.7.

The challenge the Browns will have is keeping Teller around. He is basically playing on his minimum-salary rookie deal, and is in the final year of his contract. Given the dominance he had a year ago, if he reproduces that in any way in 2021, I don’t know if Cleveland can afford him, given what they’re paying the other four members of the line.

Final Roster Odds: 100%


Baltimore Ravens v Cleveland Browns Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

5. Jack Conklin - Starting RT

Height: 6-6 | Weight: 308 lbs | Age: 26
Experience: 6 years | College: Michigan State

Last, but not least, we have Jack Conklin. After being the Browns’ biggest free agent signing last offseason from the Titans, he did not disappoint as the team’s starting right tackle. He started 15 games, and although he left the first playoff game early, he returned to play the entire second playoff game against he Chiefs.

According to Pro Football Focus, Conklin posted career-highs in his overall grade (84.0) and pass-blocking grade (81.5). Conklin was a first-team All Pro as a rookie in 2016, and received the same honor in 2020 as a member of the Browns. I didn’t expect Conklin to receive such a distinguished honor, but he did play very well all season, except for his first match-up with T.J. Watt of the Steelers.

Final Roster Odds: 100%


Poll

What are your expectations for Jedrick Wills this year?

This poll is closed

  • 32%
    He will take a huge step forward and play at a Pro Bowl level
    (134 votes)
  • 65%
    We’ll see some progress, while he maintains a level of consistency
    (268 votes)
  • 1%
    Look out for a sophomore slump
    (5 votes)
407 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Will the Browns be able to keep Wyatt Teller beyond this season?

This poll is closed

  • 45%
    Yes, they’ll work out a long-term deal
    (159 votes)
  • 54%
    No, probably too expensive for us to retain
    (190 votes)
349 votes total Vote Now