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‘Make-or-break season’ for this member of the Cleveland Browns

Jedrick Wills gets the nod even if Deshaun Watson is the key to the season

NFL: JAN 01 Browns at Commanders Photo by Lee Coleman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Pretty much everyone agrees that if QB Deshaun Watson does not return to some version of the player he was for the Houston Texans, the Cleveland Browns 2023 season likely goes up in flames. HC Kevin Stefanski is charged with getting the most out of Watson while the receiving corps must produce better than expected as well.

Protecting Watson could also be a huge piece of the puzzle. The mobile quarterback has a history of extending plays and holding on to the football, often making his offensive line’s job harder.

For LT Jedrick Wills, Watson’s style of play could make it harder for the 10th overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft to live up to expectations. The Browns already picked up his fifth-year option for 2024 but Wills has been identified as the team’s “make-or-break” player for 2023:

He will go through a two or three game stretch of shutting down Pro Bowl pass rushers, but then will go through an equal stretch of looking unmotivated and unplayable. While he has two more years left on his contract, 2023 will be the telling year as to whether or not Wills will be in the long-term plans of the Browns. He has all of the tools and talent in the world, but it is up to him to lock in on a down-to-down basis.

Wills’ inconsistency is frustrating for a variety of reasons including being selected just before Tristan Wirfs, one of the best tackles in the game, and having one of the best offensive line coaches working with him in Bill Callahan. Being GM Andrew Berry’s first pick ever as the top guy adds to the pressure.

To be fair, Wills had the tough assignment of being the first long-term replacement for Hall of Famer Joe Thomas and perfection on the offensive line is the only way to stay under the radar.

Wills has been neither perfect nor dominating in his first three seasons in the NFL. Watson is the key to the season but his contract means he does not face “make-or-break” status in 2023. Instead, while the Browns have picked up his option in 2024, 2023 could define Wills’ time in Cleveland and, perhaps, his NFL career.