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Browns Mailbag

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Browns Mailbag: How's Jedrick Wills Jr. handling his rookie season?

Senior Writer Andrew Gribble answers your questions every week

We're resting up during this bye weekend and preparing ourselves for the home stretch.

That's why the Browns Mailbag is coming to you one day earlier than usual. The long weekend awaits, but first, your questions.

What is the update on Nick Chubb's and Wyatt Teller's return from injury — Elizabeth B., Parma Heights

Both players are progressing well in their respective rehabs, coach Kevin Stefanski said earlier this week. Whether or not that means either player will be back Week 10 against the Houston Texans remains to be seen, but it hasn't been ruled out.

The Browns would certainly benefit from the return of both players, let alone just one of them. In the past four games, the Browns have averaged just 95.5 rushing yards. That's down from the 200+ they averaged in the first four, when both were healthy.

I've been impressed with the overall play of highly-coveted 1st-round draft pick LT Jedrick Wills Jr. as he has already battled some of the league's premier edge rushers in his early career playing at a crucial position in our offense. Harrison Bryant has shown flashes of his potential for a high level of production in this coaching staff's tight end-friendly scheme. Nick Harris appears confident as a replacement for JC Tretter at center, and he also seems to have the versatility to fill in at guard if necessary. With OBJ out for the season, Donavan Peoples-Jones will have an opportunity to demonstrate the talent that made him such a top prospect coming out of high school. With all of this said, do you think that these offensive rookies have lived up to their expectations so far? — Nick D., Wayne, West Virginia

I very much do. One of the smallest draft classes in recent years has come up big for the team in a variety of spots. And while I touched on a question similar to this a couple of weeks ago, I think this is a good spot to give some love to Wills, who has looked the part as a rock-solid left tackle for years to come. When you factor in the COVID-shortened offseason and the fact Wills never played left tackle in college, it makes what he's done over these first eight weeks even more impressive — a steal at No. 10 overall.

"He has done a nice job," Browns EVP of Football Operations and General Manager Andrew Berry said Wednesday. "I think it is a credit to the work that he has put in, and it is a huge credit to Bill Callahan and (assistant offensive line coach) Scott Peters with the work that they have done there. That is not an easy task in an abbreviated offseason. Jed still has work to do, and he will be the first to tell you that. He is by no means a finished product. In terms of transitioning as really any rookie left tackle, let alone one who had not played left tackle really ever for a significant period of time, we are pleased with him.

"I would have to say this, like kind of the theme of the first half, encouraged, but it is still is incomplete. Expect him to continue to make strides."

Wills has impressed his veteran teammates with a no-nonsense demeanor that can be almost deceiving. G Joel Bitonio has talked regularly about how quiet Wills can be at times, but he no longer mistakes it for any sort of feeling of being overwhelmed.

"He is focused," Bitonio said. "He is a quiet guy, but he is always in there. He is focused, he is taking notes and he is ready to work in practice. And that is all you can ask."

How will the Browns passing attack be revamped with the injury to OBJ? Will the offense be even better in his absence? — Brooks P., Cincinnati

This question was sent to us last week, but we held off answering it because we needed to see it for ourselves. And, honestly, because of the swirling winds and very weird game flow, we're not going to overvalue what we saw or didn't see in the loss to the Raiders.

Clearly, there's no replacing Odell Beckham Jr. Everyone on the roster, coaching staff and front office who has fielded questions on the subject has acknowledged as much. The Browns, instead, will rely on a handful of players to help spread the field and keep the offense humming.

"A loss of a player of that caliber, you do not just realistically fully replace [with one player]," Berry said. "It will take a bit of a committee approach. I like the guys we have in the receiver room. I thought we saw their potential with their ability to step up against Cincinnati two weeks ago. It really will take a next man up mentality and guys playing to their strengths and continuing to step up and produce because Odell is not coming back this year."

The big difference between the Raiders game and the previous week against the Bengals was the lack of targets and success for Cleveland's wide receivers beyond Jarvis Landry. Rashard Higgins and Donovan Peoples-Jones rose to the challenge against the Bengals but weren't able to produce much at all against Las Vegas. Peoples-Jones was mostly relegated to special teams duties while Higgins and KhaDarel Hodge took the lion's share of snaps alongside Landry. The trio combined for five catches for 66 yards on 14 targets — 11 of which went to Landry.

"I don't think we went into it saying those targets were going to come out like that, but they did," Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said. "We will work really hard to make sure that we are trying to get all of the guys involved. That is part of our job."

What is going on with Greedy Williams? When can we expect him to play his first game of the season? — Nick D., Wayne, West Virginia

That's yet to be determined. What we know is Williams continues to work hard behind the scenes while recovering from a nerve issue in his injured shoulder.

"He is working very, very hard," Stefanski said. "We are just going to keep seeing if he progresses over the next few weeks."

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