— ESPN+ (@ESPNPlus) July 16, 2021
These ESPN rankings are based on pass block win rate (PBWR), which was derived from NFL Next Gen Stats and created by the worldwide leader in sports.
Here is how the Browns offensive line fared last season in PBWR:
- Green Bay Packers, 74%
- Cleveland Browns, 71%
- Arizona Cardinals, 67%
ESPN projects the Browns offensive line as follows:
Consistency is the name of the game for the offensive line, as Cleveland is bringing its line back for 2021:
“This group started a collective 73 games out of a possible 80 for Cleveland last season.”
Bitonio, a 2014 second-round selection by Cleveland, has hit the field for all 16 regular-season games for four consecutive seasons and has played very well:
Joel Bitonio, three straight Pro Bowls, is No. 1 in the NFL in pass block win rate and No. 11 in run block win rate among guards. The #Browns were already without their top two backup guard options in Chris Hubbard (season-ending injury) and Nick Harris (knee) @ESPNStatsInfo
— Jake Trotter (@Jake_Trotter) January 5, 2021
The guard who will turn 30 years old in October is looking to be a vital part of this line yet again.
Meanwhile, 22-year-old Jedrick Wills Jr. enters his second NFL season after leading all rookie tackles in PBWR:
“While Bucs first-round pick Tristan Wirfs drew plenty of praise for his role with the Super Bowl champs, it was actually Wills who best performed in PBWR among the 2020 crop of rookie tackles.”
So, can Bitonio, Wills, and the offensive line produce yet another strong season in 2021?
It seems likely, as the line will be very important to Cleveland’s success this upcoming season.
Pass Blocking was a Strength for the Browns Offensive Line in 2020
Last year, PFF ranked Cleveland first in pass protection and second in stopping the run.
This past May, PFF scored Cleveland’s line as the best run-blocking and pass-protecting group in the league.
In terms of ESPN rankings last year, three Browns ranked in the top five at their position, with Bitonio and JC Tretter each producing 97 percent PBWRs:
Offensive Guard Rankings: PBWR
- Joel Bitonio (CLE): 97%
- Zack Martin (DAL): 96%
- Quenton Nelson (IND): 95%
- Isaac Seumalo (PHI): 95%
- Ali Marpet (TB): 95%
Offensive Tackle Rankings: PBWR
- Andrew Whitworth (LAR): 94%
- Duane Brown (SEA): 94%
- Billy Turner (GB): 94%
- Trent Williams (SF): 94%
- Jack Conklin (CLE): 94%
Center Rankings: PBWR
- Brandon Linder (JAC): 98%
- Mitch Morse (BUF): 97%
- JC Tretter (CLE): 97%
- Matt Skura (BAL): 96%
- Corey Linsley (GB): 96%
The Browns, along with last year’s NFL-best PBWR team in the Packers, are very frequently seen in the lists above.
There are high expectations this upcoming season in Cleveland, as it is expected that the Browns will move up the best pass-protecting rankings in 2021.
Cleveland expects to have yet another tremendous season of pass blocking, but can the offensive line improve with run blocking?
According to ESPN Analytics, Where Does the Browns Offensive Line Need to Improve?
The Browns offensive line will need to see an uptick in terms of run blocking in 2021.
While the Packers were successful in pass blocking, they won with regard to run blocking, too:
- 1. Green Bay Packers, 74%
- 2. Philadelphia Eagles, 73%
- 3. Washington Football Team, 73%
- 13. Cleveland Browns, 71%
The Browns’ run blocking was not the strongest in the league, according to ESPN analytics.
On the bright side, they were just a few percentage points behind the top teams.
In addition, the Browns ranked very highly in rushing statistics last year:
- 2,374 rushing yards (third overall in NFL)
- 21 rushing touchdowns (fifth)
- 4.8 rushing yards per attempt (fifth)
The impressive rushing performance in 2020 led the Browns to have the third-longest average time per drive: three minutes.
With the Browns’ wealth of offensive weapons as well as a very strong pass-blocking offensive line, 2021 should be a very successful season in Cleveland.