The Cleveland Browns walked out Sunday as winners over the Cincinnati Bengals. They did, however, lose a key piece to what most call one of the best offensive lines in football. Right tackle Jack Conklin went down for the year with an ACL and MCL tear. The Browns have been in this situation before with Conklin.
Conklin signed a three-year, $42 million contract with the Cleveland Browns as a highly touted free agent in 2020. Conklin would start 15 games in 2020 and was an All-Pro that season. Since then, he has had two significant injuries.
The first was in 2021, when he tore his right patellar tendon, leading to him missing nine games. He came back in 2022 and was able to play in 14 games, but didn't look like the same player to start the year. Conklin showed some signs of his old self towards the end of the season.
Andrew Berry would bet on a Conklin coming back strong in 2023 offering him a four-year $60 million extension towards the end of last season with $ 30 million guaranteed. The decision was criticized by most based on the injury history and the down season. The hope was a full year after the previous injury would help lead to the old Jack Conklin back at right tackle.
Now, we have his second significant injury in two years. He will miss the rest of the season with this one. Will Jack Conklin ever play again? That is a question for another time. Now the Browns will have to see just how much of a "steal" Dawand Jones really is.
Dawand Jones fills in, will get first start with Browns
While Jones will be making his first start in Cleveland, he did replace Conklin in game one against the Bengals. The rookie stepped up, as the line did not skip a beat. Even with a Pro Football Focus grade of 49.7 for the game, most football guys, such as @BaldyNFL, felt he handled himself just fine.
His name wasn't called on once during the telecast, something you want when it comes to a lineman. He would provide strong pass protection against a stout Bengal defensive line. He didn't grade well in the run game, yet Nick Chubb seemed fine with 18 carries for 106 yards. The big man out of The Ohio State University was thrown into a rough situation and responded well. Now comes another new experience and an even tougher task for the rookie.
The Browns will face the rival Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday Night Football at Acrisure Stadium. Jones will be asked to make his first start against a hated rival in their stadium and will face one of the best edge players in all of football, T.J. Watt.
All Watt has done in his career is rack up 80.5 sacks and finish in the top three for Defensive Player of the Year three times, winning once. Blocking Watt is a tall task, even for a guy who stands 6'8 and weighs 375 pounds. Expect the coaching staff to make some adjustments to provide help against Watt. That is not a knock against the rookie, as he looks legit, but when you face a game-wrecker with an inexperienced player, rarely do good things happen.
Jones has been the darling of the NFL after being taken in the fourth round of the draft and having a stellar preseason. Will we get a dose of reality Monday night, or will Jones again prove he should have been drafted much earlier?