Overall, the Browns have a solid offensive line, but in the National Football League, offensive lines can be only as strong as their weakest link.
With new acquisition Deshaun Watson starting under center next season, as well as new wide receiver Amari Cooper, Cleveland has the potential to not only reach the postseason but possibly make some noise there.
With an 8-9 record in 2021, the Browns came very close to making the playoffs despite lots of injuries to key players.
If they are to participate in the postseason for only the second time since 2002, they will need Wills to step things up after a disappointing 2021 campaign.
Wills’ Season Was Cut Short
Wills, who is a native of Lexington, Ky. and was a star for the University of Alabama Crimson Tide in his three seasons there, was taken by Cleveland with the 10th overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
A lot was expected as a result of Wills, and Joe Thomas, the legendary Browns offensive lineman, thought very highly of the pick.
— sz (@akszp) April 28, 2020
His first game in the 2020 season opener versus the Baltimore Ravens was cut short by a shin injury, but he still had his moments.
In Week 10, the Browns had a banner game on the ground versus the Houston Texans in which running back Nick Chubb had 126 yards and one touchdown, while Kareem Hunt gained 104 yards, giving the team as a whole 231 rushing yards.
For his efforts in creating open lanes for Chubb and Hunt, Wills received the Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Week award.
This past season, he injured his ankle in Week 1, and although he appeared in 13 games, the injury seemed to hamper him throughout the campaign.
However, injuries don’t seem to be a valid excuse for what seems to be Wills’ biggest issue.
Wills Needs To Be More Consistent
In the NFL, offensive linemen are like personal bodyguards for a team’s quarterback.
One missed assignment or two could result in a big sack or lead to a turnover or, even worse, a significant injury to a team’s starting signal-caller.
Wills, at times, can levy great blocks on opponents, but he struggles from a lack of consistency.
In addition, he has a tendency to get called for penalties.
He picked up 11 penalities in the 2020 season, which is simply way too much.
This past season, his 67.9 pass-blocking grade and 61.5 run-blocking grade were simply very poor, especially for a team that possesses one of the league’s best running backs in Chubb.
But the talent seems to be there.
Very good mental processing via Jedrick Wills Jr.
– 54 is creeping pre-snap & Wills picks it up
– On Wills first kick his eyes are inside
– Once 54 comes he smoothly mirrors inside & clips him
– Outside pressure is on Baker pic.twitter.com/JqYrL4S9W1
— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) September 29, 2020
Thomas gave a brilliant analogy that Wills would be wise to pick up on and adopt.
“Yeah, he’s been up and down. The inconsistency has been the thing that’s held him back… You gotta think of the offensive line position like you’re a secret service bodyguard. You have to be right 100% of the time every time you wake up and walk onto that practice field”, said Thomas to reporters. “Being right 99 out of 100… nobody’s gonna care if on snap 100 you go the wrong way, or you take a bad step, and the guy spins right through your gap and slices the quarterback in half… that’s what they remember about your position. The good stuff is great, but don’t mess up.”
An advantage Wills has on his side is Bill Callahan, the Browns’ offensive line coach, who some consider the best such coach ever.
Does the former Crimson Tide standout have the desire and work ethic to become his best self?