J.C. Tretter has returned to practice but head coach Kevin Stefanski isn’t sure he’ll play week one against the Baltimore Ravens.
The Cleveland Browns would have a tough test Week 1 against the Baltimore Ravens if everyone was healthy and ready to play. Since that’s not the case, the team is looking at an uphill battle against the Ravens. While the defense has a slew of questions to answer, the biggest issue of concern for the first game of the year falls squarely on the offensive line. Throughout camp, reports have not been the greatest about the line and that was in part due to J.C. Tretter, the starting center, being out due to surgery on his knee.
Despite it being a minor procedure, Tretter may still not be ready to go by Sunday. If that’s the case rookie Nick Harris will start in Tretter’s stead. That would be bad enough, pitting a 21-year-old rookie against the Ravens retooled defense but reports from camp also highlighted how poorly first-round pick Jedrick Wills has adapted to the Browns system. This wasn’t totally unexpected, as Wills is switching positions, and schemes and doing so without an entire offseason to put all of it together. So Wills has had about two-fifths as much time to prepare as a rookie normally would have.
So his growing pains are going to be season-long, unfortunately. Two rookies starting on the offensive line isn’t ideal.
Add on the fact that Wyatt Teller had a mediocre 2019 season, and that Joel Bitonio and Jack Conklin can’t block every gap themselves, and there’s a potential disaster waiting to befall the Browns on Sunday.
The Browns biggest offensive issue in 2019 was keeping quarterback Baker Mayfield upright. He ranked among the leagues worst when it came to the time he had to hold onto the ball in the pocket. Constantly on the run and avoiding 300-pound monsters all year, the start of the Browns season could look like a bad horror, B-movie sequel.
Expect the Browns to rely heavily on the running game in Week 1 and the Ravens to really try to take advantage of an offensive line that is still learning, growing, and settling into their rhythms.