The injury gremlin has not been kind this season to the offensive tackles on the Cleveland Browns.
First, it was starting right tackle Jack Conklin, who went down with a season-ending knee injury in Week 1.
On Sunday, it was starting left tackle Jedrick Wills Jr., who left the game against the Arizona Cardinals in the third quarter after suffering what looked to be a significant knee injury. Wills had to be taken off the field on a cart with an air cast on his right leg.
Once Wills went out, it was time for James Hudson III to hit the field. And while the Cardinals did not pose a major threat, Hudson held his own for the remainder of the game.
The Browns were fortunate that after they lost Conklin for the season rookie Dawand Jones was able to step in at right tackle. While not playing at Conklin’s level, Jones has done a solid job, especially as a pass blocker, and helped calm everyone’s nerves.
If it turns out that Wills’ injury is significant, then the Browns will be turning to Hudson for the rest of the season and hoping that he can step in as seamlessly as Jones.
Source says the fear is a right knee injury for Jed Wills that could threaten the rest of his season https://t.co/SEL1EqNIWe— Jonathan Jones (@jjones9) November 5, 2023
One advantage for Hudson is that he has some experience after playing 296 offensive snaps in 2022 and 303 in 2021. The downside is that he has just been an average player with an overall grade from Pro Football Focus of 57.3 in 2021 and 57.8 in 2022.
At this point in the season there is not much the Browns can do other than embrace the “next man up” plan with Hudson and hope that Jones stays healthy after getting dinged up a bit these past two games. Because they don’t have many other good options as the depth at the position is getting stretched thin.
Anyone still a free agent is likely not with another team for a reason, and picking up someone from another team’s practice squad does not sound like a viable plan for anything other than another warm body.
As for who is currently in the building, Cleveland signed Leroy Watson on Thursday from the practice squad of the San Francisco 49ers, but he has yet to play in a game. On their own practice squad, the Browns have Geron Christian, who just joined the team on Tuesday, Alex Leatherwood, who has had a rocky first two seasons in the NFL, and Ty Nsekhe, who is currently on the practice squad’s injured list.
Wills certainly has had his share of struggles, but the Browns are still going to feel the ripple effect of his injury down the depth chart, especially if the injury gremlin decides to make a return visit before the end of the season.
How confident are you in James Hudson III as the team’s starting left tackle?