The Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals open up the 2023 NFL season with the 100th Battle of Ohio. The Bengals lead the all-time series, 52-47. However, the Browns have won eight of the last 10 matchups in the Interstate-71 feud.
This is an excellent test for both franchises. Whether on purpose or by chance, these teams mirror one another’s strengths and weaknesses. Here are three critical matchups that the Browns must win in order to escape week one with a victory and win the 100th Battle of Ohio.
Three Matchups that will make or break the Browns in week one
Matchup No. 3: Jedrick Wills vs Trey Hendrickson
From a stylistic standpoint, you couldn't have two playing styles that are more opposed to one another than Jedrick Wills going against Trey Hendrickson. In Hendrickson, the Bengals have a tenacious pass rusher that can only be described as a terminator. Hendrickson wields a relentless motor that simply overwhelms opposing offensive tackles with his endless effort.
Then you have Jedrick Wills. From a physicality point of view, Wills is exactly what you are looking for in a left tackle. He's a fluid mover who possesses above-average play strength and is agile enough to recover if beaten initially.
The problem is that Wills never gets out of first gear. Sometimes, when you are as gifted an athlete as he is, first gear is good enough to get the job done. However, looking for work is a prerequisite to playing offensive line, and it's something that Wills very seldom attempts.
Often in pass protection, even when winning a rep, Wills plays as if he hears an imaginary whistle telling him that the play is over. That type of effort, or lack thereof, will be a death sentence against a player with a motor like Hendrickson. Wills' quick whistle approach to pass blocking will only be accentuated by Deshaun Watson’s proclivity for extending plays.
To block a player like Hendrickson for the duration of an NFL game will take a workman like approach. If Wills doesn’t bring his lunch pail with him and the mentality of finishing plays, Hendrickson could ruin a handful of drives for the Browns.