Jack Conklin, when healthy, is the Cleveland Browns’ best offensive lineman and maybe even their best player.
The Cleveland Browns need Jack Conklin to succeed in 2022, especially with regard to the ground game. Conklin was a key player in the 2020 season, and the rushing game thrived with Conklin at the right tackle position. He became an All-Pro for his work and has really proven his viability as a top guy in the league.
Conklin wants to remain with the Browns beyond 2022, but a lot of that is going to be about how he plays in 2022. He’s worth a new deal even if he’s not as good as he was, but will his opinion on himself and what he’s worth match with how effective he is on the field? That’s the question, and we have to ask that question because of his 2021 season.
Injuries hindered him in 2021, and while the rushing game didn’t seem to fall off any, it’s hard to really say it would with Nick Chubb as your runner. That doesn’t mean the offensive line didn’t drop off some, as it did. The rushing game was limited a bit, as Jedrick Wills has yet to prove his ability to actually be a focal point of the offensive blocking schemes, forcing the team to start running more A-gap stuff between Wyatt Teller and J.C. Tretter, as opposed to the C or D-Gaps they were running more so in 2020.
That’s why Conklin is so important to the team, without him the entire right side of the line gets thrown into limbo. The Browns will have a new starting center and a tight end in David Njoku who is anything but a reliable blocker.
Conklin has to return to full strength to fortify that right side.
Now that Tretter is gone, the option to thrive in the middle of the chaos isn’t going to be as consistent as it was last year. You could always run outside more off the right tackle, but then you have the fact that Austin Hooper, a very good blocker, and Stephen Carlson, an even better blocker, won’t be around for the Browns to utilize as tight ends. This means the D-gap and edges of the tight end won’t be as effective either.
Yet, with Conklin back in the fold, he and Teller are good enough to carry the water for whoever is at center, and for whatever tight end is on the edge.
That’s a testament to how good Conklin is.
Jack Conklin may very well be the best player on the team
There are four guys who you could say are the best players on the Cleveland Browns. There’s disgraced quarterback Deshaun Watson, the best pure-runner in the NFL and possibly the most talented running back the team has ever had in Chubb, there’s a very likely future Hall of Famer in Myles Garrett, and then there’s the elite guard and potential Hall of Famer in Joel Bitonio.
Those four names, and Conklin, are All-NFL caliber players. If Conklin isn’t healthy, he won’t be in that consideration, yet if he is, then he may be the very best of all of them. When Conklin got hurt last year, the Browns’ running game relied more on Chubb to break big plays than it did on offensive linemen-wrecking fools.
Not only that, but the Browns’ pass blocking went into the gutter. Sacks were up from 2020, hits were up from 2020 and a lot of that had to do with Blake Hance not being able to seal the edge on passing plays. He was a good fill-in for the tackle spot on rushing plays, but he just didn’t have either the quickness or length to handle the edge. You don’t need both, but you need one.
Now that Conklin is back, the hope is that he’s able to return right back to form.