Defensive end for the Cleveland Browns Myles Garrett maneuvers around the offensive tackle of the Cleveland Browns. In practice drills, Jedrick Wills Jr. and others are frequently paired up. Gunter, Joshua, Cleveland.com
CLEVELAND, OH – Jedrick Wills Jr.’s stay with the Browns has been somewhat of an outlier among fans as he enters year four of his career.
The left tackle has never been a favorite of Pro Football Focus, with a 62.9 offensive grade in 2022, ranking 60th in the NFL among qualifying tackles. The year prior, he finished No. 55 with a 66.1, despite fighting an ankle injury for the whole season.
Wills hasn’t been ideal, especially when it comes to consistency. However, the Browns are considerably more optimistic about his prospects than those ratings would indicate, especially given that PFF rankings for offensive and defensive linemen don’t usually correspond to the team’s evaluation, due to independent evaluators not knowing an individual player’s assignments.
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And, even in actuality, Wills’ responsibilities are rarely easy.
Wills is frequently lined up against Myles Garrett, the four-time Pro Bowler who has a franchise-record 16.0 sacks in each of the last two seasons, in one-on-ones or 11-on-11s.
There’s only one way to characterize the 24-year-old tackle’s experience.
“It’s unreal,” Wills said on Friday to Cleveland.com. “I doubt I’ll be able to find work like that anywhere else.” One of the game’s best defensive ends, if not the best defensive end of all time. But I believe it is quite beneficial to me. It helps me get started. It helps me hone my techniques and other such things.”
Wills loses a lot of those matches, there’s no way around it.
In fact, Garrett beating him for would-be sacks throughout training camp is frequently what draws ire from Browns fans on social media (comments he doesn’t see because he doesn’t spend much time on social media, he’s previously stated).
Wills had to combat displeasure in his earlier years in the NFL because this was the first time he’d routinely matched up with an edge rusher of Garrett’s caliber. Wills now accepts it as “just another day at the office” and embraces it.
“Growing up, it’s hard to find that,” Wills added. “But it’s definitely a challenge, and I think it’s really helping me.” As a result, I’m always up for a challenge.”
“We came out of last year’s film evaluation, the scheme eval from the offseason, and we saw a lot of positive things in his play,” said offensive line coach Bill Callahan, one of the game’s most trusted position coaches. “We noticed steps. We want it to be more physical now. We would like it to be more consistent in terms of finish. We’d like to see that finish turn more violent and physical. I believe we’re pushing it. We’ve had lengthy discussions about it.
“And Jed is a fantastic kid who takes constructive criticism well.” He enjoys challenges, therefore he’s up for it. He wishes to improve. He’s showed in the offseason and in training camp that he’s becoming a more consistent pass protector. In terms of technique, we’ve expanded his repertory. So we’re very optimistic. And I know he’s really motivated to go better and better because there are some great things ahead of him.”
Another challenge for Wills and the rest of the offensive line this season will be getting everyone on the same page when it comes to blocking for Deshaun Watson, a true dual-threat quarterback who will often hold onto the ball for as long as possible in order to make a play and who also has great improvisational ability.
Those explosive plays must begin right away.
“Really, just knowing that he’s a playmaker and that he’ll go to any length to get the ball in the right position,” Wills explained. “So we’re just making sure we’re alive as long as he’s alive.”
Wills is also pleased going into this season since his future is set for the next two seasons.
In May, the Browns exercised his fifth-year option for $14.175 million, extending his contract through 2024.
But, like those one-on-ones with Garrett, Wills sees the fifth-year option as more difficult.
“Showing that they have some faith in me and that they like what they’re seeing, it definitely secures my spot for the next two years,” he said. “And if not next year, at least this year, I can try to do some good for myself.” So it’s simply the trust factor coming from them, knowing that they like me where I’m at and that they’ve locked me in.”