What I’m hearing about how the Browns are building an offense for Deshaun Watson – Terry Pluto


I checked with some of my top NFL sources on how Deshaun Watson fared in the various spring camps. There is an asterisk next to everything you read because this is non-contact football. Many of the practices were not open to the media, which is why I reached out to those close to the situation.

1. Watson is building a strong relationship with head coach Kevin Stefanski and offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt. I heard they considered him “a no-ego star who wants to be trained hard.” That matches Watson’s reputation at Clemson and, for the most part, in Houston.

2. Stefanski has directed Watson in front of the team. Watson understands that’s part of the deal as a QB. The team is watching to see if the coaches will criticize him like they do other players. So far, Watson has been a low maintenance QB.

3. Watson, Stefanski and Van Pelt have been exchanging ideas, texting plays to each other away from the facility. Watson has been watching videos of other NFL and college teams, looking for plays he likes — just like the coaches do for him.

4. A significant difference from a year ago is Watson’s ability to “self-train.” He recognizes when he is making a mistake and often mentions it and corrects it before the coaches have a chance to say anything.

5. It’s early, but I hear the relationship between Watson and the coaching staff “is an incredibly healthy dynamic.”

The relationship between coach Kevin Stefanski (center), offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt and Deshaun Watson has been strong.

6. In spring drills, the Browns believe Watson “was crisp and made some high-difficulties.” Timing with receivers was encouraging, as was Watson’s performance in various drills, including 7-on-7 and 11-on-11.

7. In the practice I saw, this assessment was correct. Watson looked sharp, better than probably any QB I’ve seen since 1999 in this type of practice. I will add that Watson was also impressive in these drills last spring. Better now, but he was good in 2022.

8. The coaches will deny this, but I think they got distracted because they had to prepare one type of offense for pocket passer Jacoby Brissett for the first 11 games, then another type of offense for Watson, a more athletic one and mobile QB.

9. The fact is, other teams have QBs with different styles and can switch. I thought that was a weakness with the coach last season.

10. The other possibility is that the Browns are saying this because Watson was dealing with so much off the field and missed 700 days between games in the regular season — he was simply overwhelmed. He admitted as much as I wrote about last weekend. The coaches were willing to take some of the blame on him with the explanation of two different offenses.

Deshaun Watson should throw more this season.

11. For Watson and the Browns in 2023, this is a fresh start. The Browns highlight the concepts favored by Watson — and those that also emphasize his strengths. Look for more games without fuss this season. (FYI: I asked them in print to do it with Watson in 2022). There will also be more empty backfield formations. There will be more plays that allow Watson to throw runs — or run the ball himself.

12. Most of the changes described in the offense should be obvious, but the Browns didn’t last season. None of this is an excuse for Watson’s disappointing six games. But it’s also true that some fundamental changes to the offense could have helped him.

13. The Browns have spent a lot of time on “scramble drills.” This is where receivers keep their passing patterns alive while Watson scrambles and extends plays. This is something the Browns didn’t emphasize last year because the stationary Brissett was the main QB.

14. The receivers keeping their eyes on the QB and running to open spots should help Amari Cooper and Donovan Peoples-Jones, both extremely smart guys in terms of football IQ. I don’t know much about Elijah Moore or the Browns’ younger receivers when it comes to how quickly they will adjust to Watson. I know the Browns are high on Cedric Tillman, their rookie from Tennessee. Early reviews of Moore have been very positive.

15. Watson was sacked 20 times in six games. Over a 17-game schedule, that’s 56 sacks. From 2018-2020, Watson was sacked 155 times. That was the most in the NFL during those three years. That’s an average of 52 times per season.

16. Browns know Watson wants high sack totals. Some of that is a product of his scrambling style. Last season, Justin Fields and Russell Wilson were sacked the most – 55 times each. Then Kirk Cousins ​​and Geno Smith added 46 times.

17. The Browns work with Watson and the line to help block coverage. A QB who scrambles a lot can “run into sacks.” This means the linemen block defenders in a certain direction and then the QB warps right into a tackle. The Browns are trying to speed up the rate at which Watson and his blockers get used to each other.

18. It’s spring non-contact football. It is a time of optimism and hope. Some of what I hear is a product of the optimistic mood. But the accuracy Watson showed this spring was real. His growing relationship with the coaches is genuine and encouraging.


1. On 11 July at 6pm I will be at the Lake Community Library at 565 Market Street SW, Uniontown. You can register online or call 330-877-9975.

2. On 25 July at 18.00 I will be at the Ritter Library in Vermilion.

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