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Jedrick Wills ready to show skills at new position after fast-paced transition

At first, Jedrick Wills Jr. was the answer to one of the Browns' biggest questions of the offseason: Who will they draft to play left tackle?

Wills, selected by Cleveland with the 10th overall pick of the 2020 draft, was their guy. The 6-foot-4, 312-pound lineman from Alabama was one of the most athletic tackles from the draft class, and scouts loved his quick footwork and tape against the best pass rushers of the SEC.

But his acquisition also created one of the biggest questions of training camp: How smoothly can Wills, who played right tackle in college, transition to the left side of the line?

Wills has been thrown into a fast-paced learning process to prepare for the starting tackle role by the regular season. After an intense load of remote work from the virtual offseason, Wills went through an even tougher round of workouts and team drills in training camp, and that phase ended Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium in the Browns' last practice of camp.

So how does Wills feel?

"It's going well," he said after practice in a video conference with local reporters. "The transition is hard for anybody in any position no matter the position, whether you are a skill player or not. Really just coming in, improving the things I need to work on in practice and just get ready for the next two weeks."

Wills' workload won't slow down over the next 14 days. In two weeks, the Browns will play their first regular season game against the Baltimore Ravens, and he'll line up against Pro Bowlers Matt Judon and Calais Campbell and others to protect the blindside of Baker Mayfield.

That talent won't be much different than what Wills has already faced in Browns Pro Bowlers Myles Garrett and Olivier Vernon. The competition has been far from easy for Wills since trench battles commenced at the beginning of August, and it will certainly prepare him to play against the top edge rushers he'll face in his rookie season.

Wills has taken his fair share of lumps in tussles against Vernon and Garrett. That was expected of the rookie, though, and the tough competition has calloused Wills to never dwell on a single play. Whether he wins the blocking battle or not, he has to focus on the next play.

"(I) come from a place in college where I just dominated everybody I went against," Wills said. "It was easy and it was a walk in the park, and now you are going against these guys who are Pro Bowlers and some of the best pass rushers in the league. It gets frustrating at times, but you just have to learn from your losses."

Wills received a check of confidence from coach Kevin Stefanski on Saturday when he was asked whether he's officially penciled the rookie in at LT for the season opener. Stefanski's response was one word: "Yes."

Coaches have always given cautious optimism to Wills when asked about his progress. None of them expected him to come in and dominate — that would've been foolish after he wasn't able to come to Cleveland to meet his teammates and coaches until late July. But they all see the progress he's made, and no coach has worked more closely with Wills than Bill Callahan.

Callahan, a 40-year coaching veteran, knows what it takes for a lineman to make the switch. He's had plenty of successful transitions in his career — Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, Brandon Scherff — and he knows that patience will be key.

"Every day, it is a learning experience for him, and we are trying to bring him up to speed as fast as we can," Callahan said Saturday. "I think the progress has been positive, but you just do not know until you go up against live competition."

Wills doesn't need to hear motivational words, though. He motivates himself by making good plays and keeping the quarterback safe.

"From my end, words can only do so much," he said, "so it's really up to me to just keep getting better and fix some things I need to work on."

The Browns are confident he'll do just that. They believed his raw talent was still first-round worthy at a new position, and they didn't waste much time on the clock when they selected Wills and answered their biggest question of the draft.

Now, Wills is still hoping to answer that second question — how well can he play at left tackle? — with another resounding answer. There's plenty of work left, but after an intense training camp, Wills is ready to respond.

"I think I have made a lot of progress," Wills said. "I'm moving along very quickly and just trying to get better."

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