Deshaun Watson, Browns Happy With Progress Through Three Games Despite Low Point Total

Deshaun Watson is pleased with his progress through three games in Kevin Stefanski's offense. (Cleveland Browns)

Deshaun Watson is pleased with his progress through three games in Kevin Stefanski's offense. (Cleveland Browns)

Deshaun Watson, Browns happy with progress through three games despite low point total

You must have an active subscription to read this story.

Click Here to subscribe Now!

 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 …

Three games into the union of Kevin Stefanski and Deshaun Watson, the end product of their offense is still a mystery.

But everyone involved is pleased with Watson’s steady progress.

“I think so. I really do,” said offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt. “I have seen growth every week. Yesterday, I thought he had his best practice he has had, just command of the huddle, command of the play calls, his footwork, his timing, his rhythm and his accuracy. Yesterday, I really was impressed.”

The offense has only two touchdowns in three games with Watson at the helm. But mitigating factors, such as the tough defenses of Cincinnati and Baltimore, and cold games outdoors surely have contributed to lower-scoring games. If you examine Watson’s progress closely, you see his former game coming back each week.

“We knew it was going to be a learning curve,” Watson said. “We knew that it was going to take some time so we are not pressuring ourselves to try and force any issues or force anything. We just take it one day at a time, one snap at a time and one rep at a time. We just have to continue to build and have that open mind that we can do that.”

One thing is becoming evident. The Browns are not going to shuck their running game and convert to a spread offense with Watson at the throttle.

“I think we do a lot of things that help him be a better player,” Van Pelt said. “It starts with the run game really. If you don’t have to rely on just passing the ball, you are going to be more balanced and more sound. I think we have that ability to do both. Obviously, a big part of our game is the keeper game off of the play-action, and he is really good on the perimeter. It kind of marries up.”

Watson warmed to Stefanski’s offense when the coach and his bosses paid their recruiting trip to Houston in March. Watson never had a running game or offensive line in Houston like he has now, and the more he talked with Stefanski the more Stefanski’s offense appealed to him.

“Just the balance of the pass and the run,” Watson said. “We have a great front five. Those guys up front, the schemes, the way [offensive line] Coach [Bill] Callahan coaches those guys and how detailed they are. Also, just how [Stefanski’s system] can get the guys, the receivers especially, the ball, not just one receiver but everyone has the opportunity to get the ball, make plays and be special. I love the opportunities that we have. I love the way he has schemed up the game. We are just going to continue to grow from there.”

Watson insists that Stefanski played a large role in his decision to waive his no-trade clause with Houston for the Browns.

“Most definitely,” Watson said. “There is a story out there that I haven’t told and I will tell another time, but on that visit, we had an opportunity to be able to talk ball and just the connection we had. It wasn’t even about selling me on Cleveland and what is here; it was mostly just all ball, and him and me had the opportunity to meet and talk about that, see what the future can hold and what we can really do in this system together. That was what I was really excited about and why I was very high on Cleveland.”

Pro Bowl Games

The Pro Bowl format has changed, but the Browns’ Pro Bowl players have not.
For the third year in a row, the AFC named guard Joel Bitonio, running back Nick Chubb and defensive end Myles Garrett to the AFC Pro Bowl team.

Five Browns were selected as alternates – receiver Amari Cooper, right tackle Jack Conklin, cornerback Denzel Ward, right guard Wyatt Teller and tight end David Njoku were also selected as alternates.

A new format replaced a tackle football game with skills competitions and a non-contact flag football game. Festivites are held Feb. 5 in Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.

A grand

Cooper is honing in on his sixth 1,000-yard receiving season in nine years. Cooper has 932 yards on 67 receptions and seven touchdowns. With three games remaining, Cooper has a chance to surpass career highs in receiving yards (1,189 with Dallas in 2019) and touchdowns (eight with Dallas in 2019 and 2021).

The milestone is a big deal for Cooper.

“Yeah, for sure. It is a milestone that people respect,” he said. “It is a milestone that people start to view a receiver like, ‘You had a good season.’ Yeah, it is.”

Cooper has been hampered the last two weeks with a core muscle injury that may require surgery after the season. He conceded it is still bothering him.

Brownie bits

Chubb missed his second consecutive practice with a foot injury. Others who did not practice because of injuries were Jadeveon Clowney (concussion) and Garrett (illness). Defensive coordinator Joe Woods said he expected Garrett to be “fine” …

Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer didn’t mince words about Cade York’s wild pull-hook of a 38-yard field goal toward the closed end of FirstEnergy Stadium against the Ravens. “NFL kickers shouldn’t kick balls like that, and he knows that,” Priefer said. “I don’t know if it was a loss of focus or the time of the game. There is really no excuse for that type of kick.” Priefer talked about York’s two field goals to the Dawg Pound end zone in the first half that gave the Browns a 6-3 lead they never surrendered. “He has kicked enough games in our stadium and he has kicked enough games in the NFL, now it is time – not that he hasn’t and I think he is trending in that direction – for him to show up for us on a more consistent basis. He knows that, and I am excited for his future here,” Priefer said.