Browns Issue Strong Response to Deshaun Watson’s Debut Dud

The long-awaited debut of Deshaun Watson didn’t exactly go as planned for the Cleveland Browns.

The polarizing QB made the start for the Browns against Jacksonville on Friday, marking the first game Watson had played in since January of 2021. Watson took the field without many of the Browns starters and played three series. He logged an uneventful stat line, completing just 1 of 5 passes for 7 yards. Watson also was showered with boos by the Jaguars fans, a clear reminder of what he might face when he does eventually get back on the field full-time.

Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski was quick to defend his QB’s showing but noted that there’s work to do.

“I think he probably wants some throws back,” Stefanski said. “Obviously playing football for the first time in a while, I thought it was important for him to get out there with his teammates in this scheme, just hearing a different voice in the helmet, those types of things. I’m sure he had the butterflies and the jitters early. But I think he understands there’s work to do.”

Browns Don’t Think Offseason Drama Affected Watson

Watson has been embattled in offseason drama for a year-plus, stemming from allegations of sexual assault and other inappropriate conduct during massage sessions. He was handed a six-game suspension but the NFL has appealed, which will likely increase his ban.

Stefanski was quick to reject the notion that the off-field issues were weighing on Watson during the start, instead pointing to the QB’s lack of recent action.

“I think anybody who is doing something that they have not done in 20 months, there is going to be an element of getting back into it and getting used to it,” Stefanski told reporters on August 13. “There are some challenging things. Ultimately, he did a nice job of running the offense. I know we would all want more production and those type of things, but you can’t overreact to a small sample size either direction, whether it is good or bad.”

Joshua Dobbs Shines as Browns Mount Comeback

While Watson’s showing wasn’t great, third-string QB Joshua Dobbs shined as the Browns mounted a comeback from the early 13-0 hole. Dobbs completed 10-of-13 passes for 108 yards and a score.

“(I) just looked in the guys’ eyes and told them one play at a time,” Dobbs said in his postgame press conference. “It’s the same reps we’ve been doing in practice the last couple of weeks. So just take it one play at a time. If we do that, we’ll get back in the game, we’ll move the ball.”

It was an important outing for Dobbs, who is trying to hold off former first-round pick Josh Rosen for the third spot on the depth chart behind Watson and Jacoby Brissett. Whoever wrangles that role will be the primary backup for Brissett during the year with Watson out. Brissett did not play in Friday’s matchup against the Jags, but is expected to get the majority of first-team reps going forward.

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