The Cleveland Browns are hoping that Bill Callahan can do for their offensive line what Mike Munchak did for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ during his six years there. Outside of coaching, the biggest thing that has held the team back for the past two years has been the quality of play along the offensive line, particularly at the tackle positions.
Well, they have their new coach, a very well-respected one at that (many Steelers fans wanted them to hire him to replace Shaun Sarrett), and they have their new tackles. They used the 10th-overall pick in the draft to pick up Jedrick Wills, but earlier than that, they signed former eighth-overall pick Jack Conklin to a three-year, $42 million deal.
The former Pro Bowler wasn’t signed just because he was about the top of the tackle market in free agency. He also fits what the Browns are looking to do in their offense under new head coach Kevin Stefanski, who may or may not retain playcalling responsibilities (it remains to be seen), and with Callahan controlling the offensive line.
“You talk about a system fit — you couldn’t get a more perfect tackle in free agency than Jack”, he told the Akron Beacon Journal earlier this month. “He fits the mode for the wide zone game and his pass protection sets, how he short sets and he jumps at the line of scrimmage, which is a tough skill to acquire. Then, of course, in third down and later downs, you can watch him set vertically, and you can see his variance of sets”.
The Browns have solid options inside with J.C. Tretter at center and Joel Bitonio at guard, so they have at least four of the five offensive line spots taken care of, on paper, at least. And if you have four solid starters along your offensive line, you’re doing pretty good, especially if your weak link is one of the guard positions, where it’s easier to ‘hide’ a player.
“What I really like about Jack is he’s a player that’s really thirsty for new techniques and new ways of doing things”, Callahan went on to say about one of his newest players. “He’s wide open from that aspect. I’m really looking forward to digging down in the trenches with him and seeing how we can tweak some things and help his game”.
With seemingly just about everything else in the roster addressed, the onus really is on Baker Mayfield in his third season to take his game, and the rest of the team, and organization, to the next level. Anything short of a winning record and a playoff appearance would certainly be a disappointment, barring injuries, given the talent they’ve acquired on both sides of the ball. But Cleveland specializes in disappointment.