The Cleveland Browns went into this past offseason needing to fix the offensive line and did just that.
The Cleveland Browns, Denver Broncos, Philidelphia Eagles, and Minnesota Vikings have found themselves on PFF’s NFL teams turned areas of weakness into areas of strength list by Solomon Wilcots (subscription required).
Wilcots points out the deficiency at tackle and how it undermined the strong interior play of the line in 2019. This was especially true in pass protection, according to Wilcots.
According to the article, the Browns tackles produced no higher than a 19th ranking in any of PFF’s significant categories. Those were pass-blocking grade (30th), pressures allowed (19th), pressure rate (22nd), sacks allowed (19th), and beaten by defenders (21st).
"In 2019, Robinson and Hubbard combined for 42.3% of the quarterback pressures allowed by the Browns’ offensive line (151). While pass protection on the perimeter can be more difficult, the Browns’ offensive tackles performed much worse than the interior portion of the line last season. – Solomon Wilcots, Pro Football Focus"
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On the other side of the coin, the interior of the line finished no lower than tenth in those same categories. Greg Robinson and Chris Hubbard were not the answer heading into 2019. If watching the games didn’t clear that up, then the above numbers should. Andrew Berry and his staff went to work to fix that issue.
Wills comes in as the replacement for Greg Robinson at left tackle. After being drafted tenth overall out of Alabama as a right tackle, the Browns will be moving Wills to left tackle. There are some questions heading into 2020.
The confidence of him outplaying Robinson from a year ago doesn’t come from talent, even though he has all you could ask for, it comes from attitude. Wilcots points to all of his accolades in college and grades that make him look better than Robinson. Well, Robinson had those accolades also when he was taken third overall.
The difference comes in the attitude Wills has shown on and off the field. On the field, he has shown he wants to dominate every play and drive his player into the ground with a nasty streak any coach would love in a lineman. Off the field, he took it upon himself to start learning to play on the left side, knowing teams may look to move him there.
Jack Conklin was signed at the outset of free agency to replace Hubbard at right tackle. Conklin brings elite road grading skills in the run game, adding to the only strength of the line from a season ago. He also brings a solid pass-block grade (72.3) according to PFF that was not there on the Browns offensive line a season ago.
The move to bring Conklin in gives the Browns the 10th best tackle in the NFL last season compared to the 75th ranked. That pretty much sums it up right there. At only 25-years-old and now a year post-knee injury, the Browns could be getting the best of Conklin over the next three seasons.
Potential for 2020
As you can see from the info provided by Wilcots above regarding last year and the potential of this year’s tackles, the chance to have a great offensive line is there. Wills brings talent and attitude to the left side while Conklin brings a proven history of strong play to the right side. Add those two to the top-10 play of the interior linemen and this line could be what takes the Cleveland Browns to the level expected one year ago.