Baker Mayfield has been sacked 13 times over the Cleveland Browns‘ first 5 games.
That is already half as many sacks as the Browns gave up in all of 2020.
And it puts them on pace to top Mayfield’s career-high of 40 sacks suffered in 2019.
So it might not surprise many to hear Cleveland’s offensive line has been knocked from the top of PFF’s rankings.
The Cleveland Browns have been knocked off the top spot for best offensive line 👀@PFF_Sam ranks all 32 OLs this seasonhttps://t.co/NcJdPRxmg0
— PFF (@PFF) October 13, 2021
But it might surprise many to hear the Browns’ unit still ranks as the second-best line in the NFL.
PFF’s Sam Monson notes that Jedrick Wills‘ ankle woes provide a potential weak link.
But so far, the unit is holding up, with Wills earning an individual rating of 63.4.
.@joethomas73 said if Joel Bitonio keeps up his play, he's heading to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Bitonio's response: "Oh, I just play." #Browns
— Hayden Grove (@H_Grove) October 14, 2021
Right guard Jack Conklin is the highest-graded right tackle in the league and J.C. Tretter is among the best centers.
But left guard, Joel Bitonio boasts the highest score among his Browns teammates with an 89.9 rating.
Wyatt Teller slipped from last year’s incredible showing, but he has yet to allow a sack or hit on Baker Mayfield.
Can The Browns Keep This Up?
Besides Wills’ bothersome ankle injury, Jack Conklin has not practiced this week due to a knee injury.
Swing tackle Chris Hubbard‘s season-ending triceps injury diminishes the quality of the reserves, too.
Head coach Kevin Stefanski said he had concerns about his tackle positions late in last week’s game.
At the time, Blake Hance and James Hudson were manning the posts as the starters nursed their wounds.
Mayfield addressing how the offensive line performed with starters missing.
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) October 11, 2021
Hance’s Browns debut became legendary as “some guy named Blake” held up against Pittsburgh.
But a potential full-time role at what is actually his second position presents a challenge.
Hudson was slow to develop in his first preseason, although he looked better after a week of first-team practice snaps.
Bill Callahan‘s backups played admirably in big spots last year, and have answered the call so far in 2021.
Teller Faces Challenge Versus Arizona
Even during last season’s stellar showing, Wyatt Teller’s pass blocking was mostly average.
His pass-blocking rating has not gone up much in 2021, but he has limited defenders to 5 hurries over 5 games.
As mentioned before, none of Mayfield’s 13 sacks are attributed to Teller.
But this week, Teller faces JJ Watt along with the wishes of fans to dominate a player who spurned the Browns.
The Arizona Cardinals are going to need more of these run stuffing plays from JJ Watt in Week 6 against the Browns beast RBs. pic.twitter.com/b7oQSok5AZ
— Bo Brack (@BoBrack) October 13, 2021
Watt has no sacks so far this year, but he leads all interior linemen not named Aaron Donald in QB pressures.
He is also one of just 4 interior linemen with a pass rush win rate over 20-percent.
Cleveland might dodge a bullet with Chandler Jones at risk of missing this game.
Jones’ Covid status might allow the Browns to help Teller a little more against Watt.
More About Those Injuries
As of Thursday, Wills and Conklin have been mostly held out of practice.
During the sessions open to reporters, they were not even on the side with trainers.
Besides resting their starters’ injuries, the situation gives Hance and Hudson the first-team snaps.
This helps the young replacements, but also the remaining starters working their tendencies into the game plan.
#Browns OC Alex Van Pelt said he’s not really sure whether starting tackles Jedrick Wills Jr. and Jack Conklin will be able to play Sunday. AVP praised Blake Hance’s performance at LT Sunday and expressed confidence in rookie James Hudson III after he filled in at RT vs. Chargers
— Nate Ulrich (@ByNateUlrich) October 14, 2021
Bill Callahan remains the Browns’ biggest secret weapon.
And he is undoubtedly getting practice squad tackle Jordan Steckler into the mix as well.
In fact, it wouldn’t surprise many if guards Michael Dunn and Hjalte Froholdt took some snaps at tackle, too.
But the official word is Stefanski hopes Wills and Conklin can play Sunday against the Cardinals.
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