It’s hard to put expectations on the 2022 Cleveland Browns right now.
We continue to wait for a decision on a potential Deshaun Watson suspension, the length of which is another question.
However, it’s not all a state of unknown in Berea.
In fact, most of the rest of the top of the depth chart is solidified outside of the quarterback position.
One of those secure spots belongs to right tackle Jack Conklin.
After playing just seven games before being sidelined by injury, what can fans expect from Conklin this season?
Healthy Conklin = Happy Conklin
Conklin took a beating on the field in 2021.
A dislocated elbow sidelined him for three weeks before he returned to action against Baltimore in Week 12.
Unfortunately, in his return, Conklin suffered a torn patellar tendon in his right knee and had to undergo season-ending surgery.
With a late-season knee injury, many wondered what kind of condition he would come back in this year.
Well, so far so good.
The first NFL PUP (Physically Unable to Perform) list of 2022 came out last week and did not include Conklin.
The NFL PUP List was released and #Browns OT Jack Conklin was NOT on the list which is a good sign his recovery is going well.
— Faithful Dawgs Podcast (@FDPodcastCLE) July 21, 2022
That’s promising for a guy who’s only played fewer than 15 games one other season in his career.
Conklin’s track record is one of durability and consistency, making last year a bit of an anomaly.
Depth is a concern across Cleveland’s offensive front.
That issue reared its head late last season and continues to loom as a potential problem in 2022.
Halfway through the summer, that right knee of Conklin seems to be holding up just fine.
Still, it’s something to keep an eye on as physicality ramps up once we get closer to the season.
When healthy, Conklin is one of the better tackles in the league.
Following the 2020 season, Pro Football Focus ranked the Browns’ offensive line as the best in football.
Conklin’s ranking was a huge part of that.
PFF ranks in 2020:
🔸Wyatt Teller: 1st
🔸Joel Bitonio: 2nd
🔸Jack Conklin: 2nd
🔸J.C. Tretter: 2nd (not pictured)
PFF’s No. 1 OLine heading into 2021 💪 pic.twitter.com/xeXjN0diZT
— PFF (@PFF) August 30, 2021
Even if he enters the season without a setback, will he be the same Jack Conklin of old?
It’s a cliché question to pose but one worth asking.
Modern recovery methods don’t make knee injuries the instant career-enders they once were.
Still, this is the second knee complication for Conklin in his NFL career.
A torn ACL in his left knee at the end of 2017 kept him out for half of the 2018 season.
So now that’s major surgery on each of his knees.
Again, modern medicine and recovery science makes coming back from these injuries in full capacity possible.
Concerns over the 2017 injury disappeared for Conklin, so there’s confidence in thinking he can come back 100% again.
Fans should remain patient with Conklin, however.
A slow start as he tries to get his conditioning and physicality back could be possible.
James Hudson, who started in place of Conklin at right tackle multiple times last season, struggled mightily 1-on-1 with pass rushers.
— Blitzburgh (@Blitz_Burgh) January 4, 2022
One of the biggest takeaways from today is that James Hudson does not deserve to start pic.twitter.com/EX3VvOVw2x
— Cleveland Sports Fans (@CLE_SPORTS_FANS) October 18, 2021
Conklin returning should allow the offense to count on their right tackle holding up in solo situations.
However, at least early on, expect some chip blocks and other help for Conklin against top-tier pass rushers.
Conklin can hold his own and is still improving on his pass-blocking.
The last thing Cleveland needs though is for Conklin to re-injure himself trying to do too much against a guy like T.J. Watt or even Trey Hendrickson who the Browns see twice each this season.
Assuming Watson misses time, Cleveland will want the offensive line at full strength when he returns.
Giving Conklin some early-season help should help keep him upright.