New general manager Andrew Berry made it his number one priority to improve the Clevland Browns offensive line, and the results have been excellent so far. However, the group faces a significant challenge in Week 3 against the Washington Football Team defensive line, and the battle in the trenches will likely decide the outcome.
The Washington defensive line will provide a stern test for a very good Brown’s offensive line
The Browns offensive line has been one of the best through two weeks
Quarterback Baker Mayfield was under duress often in 2019, and the line had trouble getting a push for running back Nick Chubb. Three of the five Week 1 starters from last season have been replaced, and the investments that Berry made in the line are paying off. First, he signed Jack Conklin to a three-year $42 million contract to man the right side. Next, Jedrick Wills Jr. was selected 10th overall in the 2020 NFL Draft to switch to left tackle.
Wyatt Teller also retained his starting spot after taking over for Eric Kush halfway through 2019. Teller has played like an All-Pro to this point, and while he was expected to be stable, he’s been a delightful surprise.
The group has gelled much faster than anticipated, and Wills has been especially impressive when considering the massive disadvantage he was placed at. Switching tackle spots is no easy task, and it was made all the more difficult by the shortened offseason and lack of contact with his coaches.
Good coaching decisions appear to be paying off in 2020
Speaking of coaches, the Browns hired James Campen as OL coach last year, and Campen was widely considered one of the best in the business. The hope was that he would be able to get the most out of Greg Robinson, and while Robinson played at a replaceable level, right tackle Chris Hubbard, in the second season of a big contract, did not. Their 2019 season was the most disappointing in team history, and the OL was just a microcosm of that.
Bill Callahan replaced Campen this year and has done an incredible job with the unit. He previously coached with Washington and the Dallas Cowboys and was the architect of some of the league’s premier lines of the 2010s.
The Browns are now ranked near the top of the league in both pass protection and run blocking. They are up there with the Green Bay Packers and New England Patriots, as Mayfield wasn’t touched on Thursday Night. The group has already shown it can handle top-tier competition (the Baltimore Ravens in Week 1), and they’ll have their work cut out this week against a talented and deep unit.
Washington’s defensive line is as talented as they come
The Washington Football Team has spent a first-round pick on a defensive lineman in each of the past four years. This massive investment has given them one of the best DLs in the entire league, and it will get even better as rookie Chase Young reaches his potential. The key players on the line include Young, Montez Sweat, Ryan Kerrigan, Ryan Anderson, Jonathan Allen, Da’Ron Payne, and Matt Ioannidis.
The Washington defense has racked up 51 pressures over two games, which is tied for third in the NFL. The Browns have allowed only 16 pressures and have been blocking very well for Chubb and Kareem Hunt in the run game. It’s a matchup of strength against strength, and Washington needs to win that battle, because, much like Cleveland, their linebackers and secondary are not great.
If given time, Mayfield should find open receivers fairly quickly. Conklin should be back in the lineup after sitting out the Browns victory over the Cincinnati Bengals, which should only boost the unit. A full-strength Cleveland offensive line against the Washington defensive line will be one of the premier matchups of the week.