Can you believe it? Training camp is just underone week away. It's been another busy offseason for the Browns, and we'll start seeing how all the new and refined pieces come together very soon. We're preparing for it all with a comprehensive preview of every position on the roster,rolling next with the offensive line.
The Offensive Line
Jedrick Wills Jr.
James Hudson III
Tyrone Wheatley Jr.
Check out the best photos of QB Deshaun Watson from his first season with the Browns
What we know: The offensive line has become the most stable position group on the Browns. Jedrick Wills Jr., Jack Conklin, Joel Bitonio and Wyatt Teller have been mainstays up front since the 2020 season began, and the only change among the starters since that year has been the insertion of Ethan Pocic at center, a job he earned after an excellent season following an unfortunate preseason injury to Nick Harris. When healthy, this is arguably a top 3 offensive line in the NFL, although injuries have limited chances for the group to display that over the last two seasons, and last year was far from their best year due to those injuries as well as a midseason QB change from the more stationary Jacoby Brissett to the mobile Deshaun Watson.
What we don't know: There is only one big question the O-Line faces this season: Can it complete the adjustment to Watson's game and showcase the same level of reliability from the last three seasons? The answer should be "yes" now that the group has had a full offseason to digest film, refine technique and grow comfortable with the way Watson can extend plays, which was often where the blocking problems arose last year. Three Pro Bowlers — Bitonio, Teller and Conklin — will lead those efforts and provide the Browns a blocking core that is perhaps the strongest in the league.
The X-Factor: Pocic, whose absence was felt when he was injured between Weeks 11-14 last season. The Browns struggled to run the ball in two of those games — an 80-yard output against the Bills and a 71-yard output against the Bengals, which were the second- and third-lowest rushing totals in games last season. When Pocic returned, the Browns topped 120 yards on the ground in each of the final four games.
The biggest number: 4.7. That's how many yards per carry the Browns' averaged on the ground last year, which ranked eighth in the NFL. Even though the group dealt with some injuries last season — Pocic missed four games, Conklin missed three and Teller missed two — the Browns still largely found ways to be efficient in the run game. Having Nick Chubb on a roster certainly helps, but credit also belongs to the offensive line for keeping the Browns in the top 10 in average yards per carry in the league in each of the last three seasons.
Says it all: "There's definitely work. You can always do some work. I think you get more plays in the structure that Deshaun feels comfortable with, that we can feel comfortable with. Even when he was here for last year's training camp, you take 10-11 weeks off in the season you work with another guy like Jacoby, it's a different world for him. So I think there's time. I think timing with the receivers, all that stuff adds into protection and stuff, it all works together. There's eleven guys on the field and I think there's a lot of things you can work on here. But I think training camp is when it really gets ramped up, when you have guys flying in front and having to move in the pocket a little bit." - Bitonio on blockers adjusting to Watson's mobile abilities
How many were kept on the initial 53-man roster last year?: 10