The Cleveland Browns boast an offensive line that is considered one of the best in the NFL.
However, this past season, a number of players on that offensive line were dealing with injuries, and it limited its productivity as the Browns limped to a disappointing 8-9 finish.
One lineman who had a disappointing season was left tackle Jedrick Wills Jr.
A lot has been expected from him ever since he was taken by Cleveland with the 10th pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, but he hasn’t given a lot, at least not yet.
For the Browns to be successful this season, especially if they’re to return to the playoffs, Wills will need to start putting it together in Year 3.
Wills Hasn’t Panned Out
After starring at Lafayette High School in his native Lexington, Ky., Wills decided to play his college ball at the University of Alabama, one of the most storied football programs in the nation.
Competing in the ultra-competitive Southeastern Conference (SEC), he showed promise as a freshman, then had a very strong junior year, only missing seven blocking assignments out of the 771 snaps he took part in that season.
Wills won first-team All-SEC honors and was named as an All-American by multiple media outlets.
In two seasons in Cleveland, he has shown flashes of his promise, such as when he won the Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Week award in Week 10 of the 2020 campaign for helping the Browns have a big game on the ground versus the Houston Texans.
But pretty often, Wills has been inconsistent, as he has missed assignments.
Another problem he has is getting called for penalties, as he was guilty of 11 of them during his rookie year.
In 2021, he posted a 67.9 pass-blocking grade and 61.5 run-blocking grade, indicative of a subpar effort and performance.
Wills Has Shown he Can Do Well, And He Has The Right People In His Corner
At 6-foot-4 and over 300 pounds, the Crimson Tide product certainly has the ability to protect the quarterback and help create openings for Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt.
But head coach Kevin Stefanski surely wants to see him handle his blocking assignments on a consistent basis so that the line of scrimmage will be more air-tight.
The potential is there – will he realize it?
On this play from Week 7 of this past season versus the Denver Broncos, Wills was assigned to cover outside linebacker Malik Reed, who appeared to get the step on him, only for him to cut him off.
Sneaky recovery from Jedrick Wills Jr. pic.twitter.com/0nuPoL6tTf
— Josh Cohen (@JCohen_NFL) October 26, 2021
On this snap from his rookie season, Wills reacts well to action from linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis and prevents him from pressuring then-Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield.
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
With Watson facing a likely suspension, Cleveland will likely have to win ugly, at least when Watson is out, which means running more offense through Chubb and Hunt and requiring Wills to hold his own.
Luckily, Joe Thomas, one of the greatest offensive linemen in Browns history, thinks highly of Wills, and the 23-year-old has the benefit of offensive line coach Bill Callahan, perhaps the best ever.