Deshaun Watson In Cold Weather? Aw, Not A Problem, He Says Now

Deshaun Watson was pleased with improvement in his second Browns game, but he's 'not close' to where he wants to be. (TheLandOnDemand)

Deshaun Watson was pleased with improvement in his second Browns game, but he's 'not close' to where he wants to be. (TheLandOnDemand)

Deshaun Watson in cold weather? Aw, not a problem, he says now

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Editor's note: Tony Grossi is a Cleveland Browns analyst for and 850 ESPN Cleveland. He has covered the Browns since 1984.

Takeaways from Browns practice and interviews …

The Browns were the first team Deshaun Watson turned down when four teams courted him in March. The reason was the weather. He was born in the South, played for Clemson in the South, and then graduated to Houston of the AFC South.

Fresh in Watson’s mind was his last appearance in FirstEnergy Stadium with the Texans on Nov. 15, 2020.

The field was evacuated for 25 minutes after the National Anthem when a thunderstorm blew through on 60 mph winds. Most of the game was played in 25 mph gusts and sporadic rain. Watson’s 163 passing yards that day were by far the lowest in a season in which he led the NFL with 4,823. The Texans lost, 10-7.

“That was crazy,” Watson recalled. “That was something I was nowhere close to expecting and wasn’t used to. It was like five different weather changes in an hour. It was pretty nuts.”

The second team ruled out of the Watson sweepstakes was the Carolina Panthers. Reportedly, they were unwilling to guarantee a new four-year contract for Watson beyond Year 2. 

When the Browns heard about that, they agreed to not only add a fifth year to their deal but guaranteed the whole shebang, and, voila, Watson changed his mind about playing in Cleveland.  

So now that Watson is prepping for his first appearance in his new home stadium, talk about winter weather is brushed aside by Watson.

“Yeah, it is a little chilly, but when I am on the field, I just am so locked in on football so I am not worried about the weather,” he said.

The forecast for Saturday’s game against the Baltimore Ravens is 33 degrees, 16 mph winds and a 15 percent chance of rain. It will be the coldest game day yet for Watson with the Browns, with worse to come. There’s another home game on Christmas Eve, followed by season-ending trips to Washington and Pittsburgh in January.

“Of course, it is a challenge,” Watson said of playing in the cold. “I would be crazy if I sat up here and said it is not a challenge. But not just for me. It is for the opponent, also. Baltimore has to come in and deal with the same weather as we do. We just have to go out there, put the weather to the side and just try to make as many plays as we can.”

For the record, Watson disputed that weather was a priority in choosing where he played, though he admitted Jimmy Haslam brought it up in conversations during the Browns' recruiting visit to Houston.

“The Haslams, they asked me about the weather,” Watson said. “That is what I told them, the weather is not a priority right now. My priority is teammates, locker room, coaching staff and what is the best opportunity for me to go win a Super Bowl.”

More to come

Watson was pleased with the improvement he made from Game 1 in Houston to Game 2 in Cincinnati.

““Just everything – the mechanics, to the operation of the offense, to decision-making, to completing balls on time,” he said. “Just everything was just a complete improvement for my game.”

Of course, there is the problem of getting the offense to the end zone. The Browns have one touchdown in 21 possessions under Watson’s early direction.

“I am not close to where I [want to be] at,” Watson said. “And I don’t want to be where I was in 2020. I want to be better. I have a long way to go. I want to continue to improve. I want to be that player whenever I step on the field that no one can stop us.

“That is my mentality, but we have to continue to go out there and continue to show that and try to do that and not just talk about it but actually prove it on the field. I am nowhere near where I want to be. This team also is nowhere near where we want to be. We have to continue to just keep growing and finish the season strong.”

Differences of opinion

Why didn’t the Browns’ defense give more attention to Ja’Marr Chase when the Bengals lost Joe Burrow’s No. 2 and No. 3 receivers – Tee Higgins and Tylor Boyd – early in the game in Cincinnati?

That’s what safety John Johnson was wondering, too.

“I feel our awareness could have been a little higher, with Boyd out, Higgins out, they were going to force-feed [Chase] the ball,” Johnson said. “I feel like we could have put more attention on him instead of just trying to stand up against him. Sometimes we were one-on-one with him. I don’t think we should have done that. You know, hindsight is 20-20, so I just think we should have had more attention on him as players, on the field, understand where he was and [realize] they were trying to get him the ball.”

The official NFL game summary credited Chase with 10 receptions on 15 targets for 119 yards and one touchdown.

Defensive coordinator Joe Woods disagreed with Johnson’s assessment of the situation.

“This year’s weird because we get extremes,” Woods said. “I think JaMarr had 19 targets [counting penalties]. And they did some things to move him around.
“Last year I think we had six or seven one-on-ones  and Denzel had one pick and created another pick. So, I feel confident in the DBs we have. So, there was straight man coverage on him, we doubled, we had zone coverage around him. So in those 19 targets, I think we had six one-on-ones – Denzel won three, he won two and we had one penalty. All the other catches were really in zone coverage or fire zone coverage.

“Going back, if they get extreme, we have to get extreme. Thinking through it, there’s some other things we can do defensively. Structurally, it would be different from what we’re accustomed to doing.”

On that fourth-and-1 pass

Here is offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt’s take on the fourth-and-1 pass to the end zone from the Bengals’ 25 by Jacoby Brissett, who was inserted ahead of Watson to run a surprise play off his past success on quarterback sneaks:

“Had he hit the touchdown pass, which was close, it would be a non-issue. It’d be a great call and a great coaching job. We were all on board with that play. We loved it.

“We had had so much success sneaking the ball with Jacoby. It was something he was comfortable doing, and we thought maybe we’d have a chance [for] a one-on-one opportunity for an explosive play. There’s not a coach upstairs in that room that wasn’t on board with that play.”

Rather than go for the first down, Brissett overthrew Donovan Peoples-Jones open in the end zone.

“We had checkdowns underneath that were not wide open … they would have been contested catch-and-run,” Van Pelt said. “The read is starting from the deep throw down. I think Donovan got bumped at the top and didn’t find the ball until it came out. That’s a completed pass for a touchdown and we don’t have this conversation.

“We’ll continue to try to put the best plays out there. We felt that was a play we all felt good about.”

Brownie bits

With Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah being the fourth linebacker lost to season-ending injury, look for recently signed veteran Reggie Ragland to see his first action Saturday against the Ravens’ vaunted running game. “He has no choice,” Woods said …

The Browns also promoted linebacker Jermaine Carter from the practice squad and added another linebacker, Storey Jackson, to the practice squad. “To have four guys go down, no, that’s never happened to me before,” Woods said.