Jedrick Wills Jr. has rarely had time on his side when it comes to starting at left tackle.
Wills, the Browns' 2020 first-round pick, had no choice but to hustle through an unusual and abbreviated training camp due to the COVID-19 pandemic to prepare for his first NFL season at a new position. The Browns needed Wills to become a sponge for information as he watched tape, received criticism and acclimated to moving from right tackle — his primary college position — to left tackle, where he was most needed on the Browns' revamped offensive line.
So when Wills suffered a leg injury in the second half of Week 1 against the Ravens, time, again, was not on his side.
He had just four days to heal before his second game against the Bengals on Thursday Night Football. Even though medical tests provided negative results, Wills, who made 28 consecutive starts as a lineman at Alabama, wasn't sure if he'd be ready to play after he was a limited participant in three practices.
"It was scary when it first happened," Wills said Wednesday in a Zoom call with local reporters. "I was feeling a combination of different things in my ankle, leg, shin, knee. I couldn't tell what it was, but I was just trying to recover and get better."
The Browns' revamped group of blockers overcame multiple injuries to deliver a performance that featured more than 200 rushing yards from Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt and zero sacks on Baker Mayfield, who had plenty of time to throw throughout Cleveland's 35-30 victory.
Wills felt ready to go, however, after pregame warmups. And his performance was one to remember.
He allowed just one QB pressure and zero sacks in 24 pass-block snaps against the Bengals, according to Pro Football Focus, and played a huge role in helping the Browns accumulate 210 rushing yards — Cleveland's biggest rushing output since 2016 — from running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt.
Now, Wills has his first complete game under his belt. His body feels better, too, and he's continuing to grow after each game.
"I'm feeling good," he said. "I'm just trying to come in each week and get better. There's a lot of things I'm still trying to improve on, so I'm just trying to work to clean those things up."
Wills' positional transition has been one of the biggest storylines among the improvements the Browns made in their offense. They've always been patient with Wills, who had his share of good and bad plays during the fast-paced training camp, but they've never wavered in expressing confidence for Wills to make a successful jump across the line for his rookie season.
The two-game sample size is too small to make any judgments about Wills' entire transformation, but the hard offseason work has paid early dividends. His teammates can see it.
"I think the biggest thing is just confidence," right tackle Jack Conklin said. "Just being out there and being in the game, having some shots fired at him, you can really see him fighting back and gaining confidence every week."
Wills' next test will be one of his hardest of the season. The Washington Football Team has four players capable of spoiling an offensive game plan, and all four could be in the mix for snaps against Wills on Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium. DE Chase Young, the second overall pick of the 2020 draft, leads the unit with 2.5 sacks, while Jonathan Allen, Montez Sweat and Ryan Kerrigan are all capable of reaching the backfield on any play.
Washington is first in the NFL with 11 sacks — eight of which came in a comeback victory Week 1 against the Eagles — and needs its defense to pound an opposing quarterback to win.
"They have a lot of great guys up front," Wills said. "Their defense kind of relies on the defense line on the strength of their team. We just have to come ready to play."
If Wills does his job Sunday, he'll make another resounding statement about how far he's progressed at his new position. Last week was a great sign for Wills, but he knows improvement is needed for every game.
This week, he'll have 10 days to prepare for his next test. Time, however, has become irrelevant for Wills.
He's always been ready to go no matter what.
"I have full confidence in myself," Wills said. "I just go out there and do the best I can do."
Check out the best photos from the Browns win over the Bengals yesterday by the Browns photo team