The NFL in 2021 is defined by high profile quarterback play up tempo offensive schemes. While the most hardcore of football fans can appreciate the play of the offensive line, the love for the big guys up front oftentimes can go unnoticed. Andrew Berry significantly upgraded Cleveland’s offensive line unit in his first year as General Manager of the organization. Those moves played a huge role in Cleveland’s 2020 turnaround.
One cannot fully address Cleveland’s offensive line without giving credit to the Browns’ former General Manager, John Dorsey. In one of his last moves with the organization, Dorsey traded a fifth and sixth round draft selection to the Buffalo Bills for right guard Wyatt Teller and a 2021 seventh round draft pick. The move was not highly publicized as Teller was not seen as a difference maker at the time of the trade. Teller took his game to another level in 2020, earning the best PFF grade in the league out of all players at his position with a staggering grade of 92.9.
While Teller himself is due a ton of credit for his turnaround, he would be the first to say that Cleveland offensive line coach Bill Callahan played an integral role in his breakout season. Callahan as seen it all in his 40 years as a football coach, as he spent considerable time in both the college ranks as the head coach at Nebraska, and pro level as an offensive line coach, offensive coordinator and head coach. The hiring of Callahan by Andrew Berry not only helped the development of Teller, but rookie Jedrick Wills as well, who switched from the right side of the line to the left before the season began.
Coming into the 2020 season, Jed Wills had never before played the left tackle position. One could not tell it was a new position for the former Alabama lineman, as the rookie performed extremely admirably in his first stint at the position. One can only assume that Wills will get even better under the tutelage of Callahan and the rest of the Browns coaching staff.
Andrew Berry’s free agent signing of Jack Conklin also proved to be extremely worthwhile based on his first year with the team. Like Teller, Conklin finished the season as Pro Football Focus’ highest rated player at his position, with a grade of 84.3. While the former Tennessee Titan was always considered an above average right tackle, he is yet another example of a player taking his game to the next level under the instruction of Bill Callahan.
Cleveland’s offensive line was even productive without their anchor, Joel Bitonio. Bitonio is currently the longest tenured Brown, and a vital member of their organization on and off the field. The Browns were without Bitonio in their first playoff game in Pittsburgh, as the pro bowler was one of the member of the team to contract COVID-19 before the playoffs. Cleveland did not miss a beat without Bitonio, as Michael Dunn came in and filled in extremely well at left guard, before getting hurt. After Dunn’s injury, the Browns had to turn too newly signed Blake Hance, or as Baker Mayfield said postgame, “some guy named Blake”. Hance impressed the Browns so much that they opted to sign him for the 2021 season.
Despite the NFL becoming a more up tempo league, football is still won in the trenches. The Cleveland Browns have a brigade of offensive lineman that excel in their offensive scheme. The offensive line is the biggest strength the Browns have, and their production makes their entire offense hum.