Browns rookie T Dawand Jones is set to make his first NFL start against one of the league's best defensive players in Steelers LB T.J. Watt on Monday Night Football.
Jones respects Watt, who had three sacks in the Steelers first game of the 2023 season against the 49ers. He has been studying film nonstop and understands the challenges ahead. Jones is anticipating the Steelers putting Watt on his side since he is a rookie and they will try to make him a target. Yet, he isn't backing down from the challenge.
"Big task ahead," Jones said of Monday's matchup. "Can't wait. Honestly, I couldn't ask for nothing else."
Jones is getting the starting nod after RT Jack Conklin went down with a knee injury in the season opener and was placed on injured reserve on Tuesday. Jones, who came into training camp raw, improved his footwork and ability to not allow pressure throughout the summer.
During the Browns' first preseason game against the Jets in Canton, Ohio, Jones demonstrated his improvements by playing all 74 snaps on offense and not allowing a single sack in the Browns' victory. Fast forward to the season opener, he filled in for Conklin on Sunday and didn't give up any pressures or sacks in 20 pass block snaps, according to PFF.
"I'm impressed by him," RB Nick Chubb said. "He's definitely a big guy. It's hard to get around him, but he's also young and he lacks experience. So, I know the coaches have been on him this week. I look forward to watching him play and playing with him."
Check out the best photos from the Browns game against the Bengals by the Browns photo team
On Monday, Jones may display the lack of experience under the bright lights of prime-time action as he faces off against the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year. It will be challenging for the rookie, but he has been collaborating with Wyatt Teller to utilize his arm length to his advantage.
Jones, the biggest player on the team at 6-foot-8 and 374 pounds, is 120 pounds heavier than Watt. While strength isn't an issue, Watt's agility and speed could pose challenges of its own. Jones is confident in his film study of what he has seen of Watt's moves that he can use in Monday's game.
While Jones is confident in himself, so are his teammates. QB Deshaun Watson also trusts him to perform to the best of his abilities.
"I'm very confident," Watson said. "He likes the challenge. He likes to be able to go out there and just play football and do whatever he can for this team, and he's been learning from all the guys across the line asking questions. It's a great task for him, and I'm excited for his opportunity."