Deshaun Watson Ends Spring Practice With His Best Throwing Day

Deshaun Watson displayed more zip on the ball on short throws and overthrew Elijah Moore from 40+ yards in his best throwing day of the spring season. (Cleveland Browns)

Deshaun Watson displayed more zip on the ball on short throws and overthrew Elijah Moore from 40+ yards in his best throwing day of the spring season. (Cleveland Browns)

Deshaun Watson ends spring practice with his best throwing day

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 Day 3 of Browns mandatory minicamp …

And on the final day of spring ball, the culmination of eight weeks of the offseason program, 10 voluntary OTA practices and three mandatory minicamp practices, Deshaun Watson had his best throwing day.

At least in the eyes of me.

“I’ve gotten to see him throw throughout the course of this rehab, and I don’t know when it was, but a while back, he looked very normal to me, so that looked normal to me,” coach Kevin Stefanski said in mild disagreement.

What I saw was a zip on the ball – yes, a zip – that was not there in the previous five practices open to media.

This was only Watson’s second throwing session in competitive periods – with defenders on the field in a 7-on-7 period – and he had noticeably more velocity on his short throws and also a long one of 40+ yards that just overshot Elijah Moore breaking behind Greg Newsome and Juan Thornhill.

“We didn’t connect, though. It was an incomplete pass,” Stefanski pointed out.

He was being coy, of course. True, there definitely is a ways to go with accuracy and also more velocity and torque to come from Watson’s arm in the wake of shoulder surgery.

But he ended on a good note. And now he just has to adhere to the recovery regimen prescribed by shoulder surgeon Dr. Neal El’Attrache and Browns doctors, and protect himself over the five-week break before the start of training camp.

“I’ve seen this improvement from him, both in terms of how he’s feeling and also just those hitting those mile-markers of when he’s allowed to do what he’s doing,” Stefanski said. “He’s right where he needs to be, and I’m pleased with how hard he’s worked.”

Don’t worry, be happy

Spring ball is all about passing, and in this case, all about passing out of shotgun formation. So it’s impossible to project exactly what the running game is going to look like after the departure of line coach and run game architect Bill Callahan and the addition of shotgun-spread coordinator Ken Dorsey.

I asked line coach Andy Dickerson if fans of the Browns’ vaunted running game should be concerned.

“Well, you know, the head coach is still Kevin Stefanski,” he said.

So I followed up with, “Will it look different in this new [shotgun-spread] system?”

“I mean, I don’t think it’s going to look that much different,” Dickerson replied. “Maybe there’s some people could see some nuances, but, I mean, there’s plenty of success here. For the last couple years, I worked for coach Callahan when I was at the Jets and worked with him as his assistant at the Jets in 2011. And, I mean, an amazing coach … [I] took so much from him and learned. So there’s a lot of carryover and stuff that’s familiar to me and to the players. And again, it’s what our guys do best and using their skills, their strengths, to get everything done the right way we need to.”

Tommy boy

At 32, Tommy Rees is the youngest member of Stefanski’s staff. The former quarterback and offensive coordinator at Notre Dame and offensive coordinator at Alabama will begin his Browns coaching career as tight ends coach. He carries the dual title of “pass game specialist.”

“You know, I think highly of that position, both as it relates to football, but also for young coaches,” Stefanski said. “It is a great spot where you get a ton of run game, you get a ton of pass game, you get protection. So, you’re really exposed to so many areas of offensive football. Tommy’s been a coordinator, he’s been a quarterback, you know, so this is a different role for him, but one that I know I’m really excited about. I think he’s excited as well.”

When he was 14, Rees was shagging balls for Phil Dawson as a ball boy and folding towels in the Browns’ equipment room. He’s the son of Bill Rees, who was director of personnel under former GM Phil Savage.

Bill Rees is now director of scouting for Notre Dame. And Tommy Rees, after stints as a coordinator under Brian Kelly, Marcus Freeman and Nick Saban, is a considered an up-and-comer in the NFL ranks who the Browns want to cultivate as an offensive coach.

I asked Rees what was it like to be offensive coordinator for the demanding Saban, who retired this year after six national collegiate championships as Alabama head coach.

“I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” Rees said. “You know, I learned so much. You know, I grew a lot, being in that environment every day, learning from the greatest coach to do it. It’s something I hold in very high regard. And we grew to have a really nice relationship.

“We still talk today and I’m going to owe a lot to him throughout my career and I’m very happy for him for his decision and where he’s at, but that experience is something that you can’t ever really describe in words, and I’m really fortunate to have that opportunity in my career.

“Coach Saban is the hardest working person I’ve ever been around. I mean, he was in his seventies when I was working for him, and his ability to continue to push himself to continue to have that work ethic. You know, it’s really motivating for a young coach like myself to see and hey, there’s no secret to why he’s had such great success, right? And you get to see it firsthand, and that was really cool for me.”

Brownie bits

Receiver Amari Cooper continued his protest for a new contract by missing the third day of minicamp, bringing his automatic fine total to $101,716. When I asked Stefanski if he had reason to believe Cooper’s contract situation would be resolved before training camp, I thought he answered with an interesting choice of words. “I’m really focused on today, but I’m sure we’ll have maybe an update when we get back. We’ll talk about it, but I have no news on that,” he said …

Reigning DPOY Myles Garrett appeared to tweak his left hamstring doing position drills early in the practice, so he stopped and didn’t do anything else. Stefanski downplayed it …

Cornerback Denzel Ward didn’t practice because of an undisclosed minor thing. “Great opportunity to give some of our younger guys some more reps,” said cornerbacks coach Brandon Lynch …

Add receivers coach Chad O’Shea to the list of observers to shout out second-year receiver Cedric Tillman with an outstanding spring season. “I’ll just say I’m so happy with Ced’s development and he really took advantage. He was in this building nonstop, he didn’t miss a day. He worked so hard. And I can’t say enough about the job he did,” O’Shea said …

Stefanski probably surprised his team by ending the spring season with a series of gassers. School’s out. Welcome, summer.