Skip to main content

Reviewing the O-line: Browns had one of NFL's best and deepest groups

Cleveland attacked the position in the offseason, and it paid off in a big way

The offseason is officially underway, and free agency is just around the corner. Until then, we'll be putting the Browns' current roster through a thorough, position by position review.

Next up: The offensive line

The Raw Numbers

Rushing yards per game - 148.4 (3rd in NFL)

Sacks allowed - 26 (8th in NFL)

Sack yards allowed - 162 (5th in NFL)

Joel Bitonio - 85.5 PFF pass block grade (No. 1 in NFL)

Wyatt Teller - 93.6 PFF run block grade (No. 1 in NFL)

JC Tretter - 84.3 PFF pass block grade (No. 3 in NFL)

Jack Conklin - 84.3 PFF overall grade (No. 8 in NFL)

Analysis in 150 Words or Less

The Browns attacked the offensive line more than any other position group during the offseason, and it paid off in a big way. Cleveland signed Conklin in free agency, and he went on to deliver an All-Pro season. Jedrick Wills Jr. was added in the draft, and the former Alabama star provided much-needed stability at a left tackle position that had been in flux since Joe Thomas' retirement. To top it off, Cleveland's interior core of Bitonio, Tretter and Teller was arguably the NFL's best thanks to Teller's ascendance as one of the league's best at his position. This group was able to maintain its status as one of the top units in the NFL thanks to big-time, next-man-up performances from a number of players, most notably Chris Hubbard, who saw snaps at three different positions throughout the year. 

Number of Significance

8 — That's how many games Cleveland's starting offensive line — Wills, Bitonio, Tretter, Teller and Conklin — was able to start and finish as an intact unit. That's counting playoffs, too, as the Browns were without Bitonio for the Wild Card round and played without Wills for all but one snap of the AFC Divisional Round. This is interesting for a couple of reasons. One, just think how much better this group could have been in 2020 if it had better injury luck. That's certainly promising when looking ahead to 2021 and beyond. Second, it's a testament to the Browns' depth, which was tested mightily down the stretch, that there wasn't much dropoff whenever an injury popped up.

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.

Low Point

On a day when the Browns needed the run game to take control, the Browns came up short in a frustrating Week 16 loss to the Jets. Cleveland was without both Wills and Teller, and it showed, as Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt simply couldn't get going against a Jets defensive line that was playing without star DT Quinnen Williams. The Browns also surrendered four sacks on this day, two of which resulted in Baker Mayfield fumbles.

High Point

There are plenty of nominees, but it's hard to look past the Browns' Week 4 triumph over the Cowboys in Dallas. Despite an early injury to Chubb, Cleveland rushed for a whopping 307 — the most ever surrendered by a Dallas defense. The O-line cleared massive holes all day long, allowing D'Ernest Johnson to have a career day and Odell Beckham Jr. to break off two big runs, including the game-sealing 50-yard reverse for a touchdown. Mayfield took two sacks that combined to lose just a yard on a day Cleveland scored a season-high 49 points.

What They Said

"It was great. A really talented group. Coach (Bill) Callahan did a really good job of preparing us. It was really exciting. Guys always love being able to run the ball, and being in an offense that is centered around that, it is always exciting for an offensive line. It is exciting to know that we are all going to be back next year and will be able to grow together and continue to learn and get better, and hopefully, continue to provide this team a run game that helps this offense and this team win." — Tretter

"Those guys did an amazing job all year. I know it was probably hard for them because every game somebody new was out, having to go in and adjust with all of the different communication and all of the different things that they do to be a great O-line. Props to them because they did a great job. They were just great. They made everything happen for us." — Chubb

Nathan Zegura's Take

"This is a room that's very talented. We're talking about three guys named to the All-Pro first or second team, Pro Bowlers, first-round picks, talent everywhere, underappreciated mega stars, in my opinion, like JC Tretter. You add good quality depth — Kendall Lamm is a free agent, that's a question there — and you've got a lot of young guys ready to fill in, and you can never have enough good offensive linemen. There are a lot of guys in the mix for Bill Callahan and Co. to mold in 2021."

Who's Back for 2021?

All but one member of Cleveland's offensive line is under contract. The group is also set to return G Drew Forbes and G Colby Gossett, both of whom opted out for the 2020 season.

Who's a Potential Free Agent

T Kendall Lamm, who provided valuable depth throughout the 2020 season.