It’s not overly common that you see a college right tackle move to the left side in the NFL. It’s almost always a transition in the opposite direction, when a scouting department doesn’t think a prospect is athletic enough to play on the left side.
Perhaps because the pass rush has become so much more balanced over the course of the past decade or so, which has required a higher degree of player at right tackle, though, the distinction between sides has become far less drastic, and we saw last year in Jedrick Wills Jr. a player who made that transition from the right side to the left for the Cleveland Browns. Not that he thought we was very good during his rookie season.
“Looking at it a year ago, I thought I was trash compared to this year, watching film. It’s a brand new game when you turn on the film this year”, he told reporters earlier this week. Which isn’t exactly good news for defensive right-side pass rushers in the AFC North.
“Feel a lot more comfortable” entering his second season, he said. “The game is a whole lot slower than it was last year. The playbook is thoroughly completed in my mind. I just feel like everything I am doing right now is a lot more advanced than I was a year ago”.
He wouldn’t accept explanations for his own assessment of his play a year ago, however, in spite of the circumstances, including the lack of a preseason. “I wouldn’t use that as an excuse. I say we all had the same opportunity”, he said, though he did acknowledge that switching sides was a challenge.
“It was definitely a tough time, especially switching positions and not having that firsthand help”, he said. “I feel like everything that I was expecting to do, I lived up to. Now with having this opportunity having it there at my hands I expect to be a lot better”.
Wills was the 10th overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, and he was a day one starter for the Browns, protecting quarterback Baker Mayfield’s blind side. He was part of a major offensive line overhaul for Cleveland, which also included the signing of Jack Conklin to play right tackle, and the development of Wyatt Teller at right guard.
With the help of Wills and the others, the Browns went from one of the worst offensive lines in football in 2019 to arguably the best in the entire league. And with the 2020 first-round pick, he is only going to continue to grow, get more comfortable, and get better.