Training camp can't get here soon enough. By then, we'll have plenty of answers to all of the loose ends surrounding the 2020 Browns.
For now, we simply have some questions.
Over the next few weeks, we'll be discussing those queries and analyzing the variables that accompany them. We've narrowed our list to 10 but there are certainly many more that wil need to be answered by the time Cleveland opens the season against the Ravens in Baltimore.
We're kicking things off with a look at the offensive line, which still has one big hole to fill after a busy offseason full of upgrades.
The question: Who's winning the battle at right guard?
The Browns' biggest moves of the offseason centered on the biggest players on the field. In March, Jack Conklin was signed to fortify the right side of the line. One month later, the Browns used their top draft asset to select Jedrick Wills Jr., who will take over at left tackle.
With Joel Bitonio and JC Tretter back for another season, that leaves one big spot to fill on the offensive line: right guard. It's a familiar one, too, considering the Browns just last year had an open competition at the position that stretched all the way to the end of the preseason. There was a resolution, but it didn't stick, as Eric Kush began the season as the starter before ceding his duties to Wyatt Teller, who was acquired in a trade with the Bills near the end of the preseason.
Now, Teller, who logged seven starts, is among those who will compete for the spot when training camp opens at the end of the month. He'll be doing so under the watchful eyes of Bill Callahan, who believes one or more players will emerge as a reliable option on this revamped offensive line.
"There are a lot of candidates. There will be a lot of time for competition," Callahan said in a May conference call. "I think that will sort itself out as we move along. It is always such a change, and we are just going to keep assessing and evaluating the position as we move forward. There are enough candidates in there that I think someone will rise to the occasion and take over that spot."
The Browns' initial 53 man roster on August 31, 2021
Teller is confident he can be that kind of player.
The Browns parted with a fifth- and sixth-round pick to acquire him before the 2019 season, and he showed some improvement after taking over the starting role at the midpoint of the year. Those reps were huge, especially in a competition like this one. The other three players Callahan mentioned as candidates — Drew Forbes, Colby Gossett and Willie Wright — have appeared in a combined seven NFL games.
"The biggest thing with me is the technique and fundamentals," Teller said in a recent interview on Cleveland Browns Daily. "Having seven to eight times out of 10, that's 70 to 80 percent. That's really good, but that will get you cut. For an offensive linemen that will get you cut. You need to be at 90 percent or 10 times out of 10, 90 to 100 percent. That's why when you see people like Jack or Joel ... they do it every time and they do it consistently and that's why they're an All-Pro. That's the biggest thing to me."
Forbes is among the more intriguing options. The former sixth-round pick was coming on strong near the end of training camp last year but a knee injury derailed any hope of him emerging as a surprise starting option. He spent the majority of his rookie season on injured reserve before appearing on special teams for two games near the end of the year.
A former tackle, Forbes now brings a full year of experience as a guard to the table. Feasibly, that should put him in a better position to compete than last season at this time.
The likely winner in this battle will be the one who hits the ground running at training camp, the first on-field action this group will experience together because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"You can understand from a book and paper perspective, but once you get on the field and bullets start flying and you are ready to roll so from that perspective, it will be interesting to see," Bitonio said. "It might take a couple weeks to get up to speed in that sense, but if you get your six weeks of training camp, I think you are going to have plenty of time to get the plays in and an understanding of the offense. I know we have a good foundation set."