One position can make, or break the Cleveland Browns
After a disappointing 2019 season, the Cleveland Browns are ready to move forward. While the team is vastly improved once again, there is still one position that could hold the key to the Browns success or demise.
To the average fan, the offensive line seems like an overrated position. How could big guys playing patty cake with each other possibly affect the outcome of the 2020 season? Does everyone remember watching Baker Mayfield run for his life last year? Not to mention getting sacked 40 times.
The offensive line provides the two most important things to a quarterback to get them comfortable. Those two things are a strong running game, and time in the pocket when there is a need to throw. Running back Nick Chubb is as good as any in the league, but without a strong offensive line, even he would admit his stat line would be significantly less.
In 2019 the Browns had two of the worst starting tackles in the league. This year they have upgraded to Jack Conklin at right tackle and drafted Jedrick Wills with pick No. 10 to play left tackle. While Conklin appears to be settling into the position nicely, Wills is still adjusting mentally. Remember, not only is he moving from college to pro ball, he is switching from right to left tackle.
There is no doubt Wills has the tools to be a tremendous NFL tackle, the question is how long he will take to develop into that. If the pressure is heavy and often next year for Mayfield off the left side, it could be another long year for the offense. A limited offseason and no preseason is a major disadvantage as well for Wills.
On top of left tackle being a question, center J.C. Tretter also appears likely to miss some game time. Rookie Nick Harris has impressed coaches this offseason, but it will still be a downgrade from Tretter in week one. The center is the captain of the offensive line and Tretter’s leadership will be a huge miss.
Offensive line coach Bill Callahan certainly has his hands full before next Sunday’s game vs. the Baltimore Ravens, however fans should rest assured there is no one better in the business. Kevin Stefanski’s offense will allow tight end help for Wills and heavy play-action should help the defensive ends from pinning their ears back to rush the quarterback.
I’m still on the side of the group getting it together and performing well in 2020, but the offensive line performance next season will likely determine the outcome for the offense and possibly the entire team.