Any Joe Schmo can walk into the Louvre Museum in Paris, stand in front of the Mona Lisa a couple minutes, say, “That’s pretty cool,” and then move on to the next painting.
A true art connoisseur would be more in awe of Leonardo da Vinci’s famous masterpiece and maybe spend hours just gazing at it.
Browns coach Kevin Stefanski is like that art connoisseur describing what Deshaun Watson can do with a football. Even a casual fan could see Watson is a gifted athlete, but Stefanski breaks down what Watson does best the way only a coach can.
PHOTOS: Browns’ OTAs, June 1, 2022
“His physical ability certainly jumps out at you on the field,” Stefanski said after a voluntary practice June 1 at the training complex in Berea. “His stroke, as AVP (offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt) would say, how the ball comes out, how quickly it comes out, where his elbow and hand are in relation to that ball coming out, the velocity and all those type things.
“It’s been impressive to watch this caliber of player be able to get the ball out of his hand quickly and really accurately. As we all know, that’s so important.”
Watson was healthy last season, but did not play a game with the Texans in 2021, in part because in January of last year he asked to be traded and in part because of the 22 (now 23) civil lawsuits filed in March and April 2021 accusing Watson of sexual harassment.
Offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt is excited for David Njoku’s contract extension. He is excited about Deshaun Watson, but he says the #Browns will still be a run-first offense with Nick Chub and Kareem Hunt. pic.twitter.com/81C6sadrrL
— Jeff Schudel (@jsproinsider) June 1, 2022
The Browns acquired Watson from the Texans on March 18 for six draft picks. They sent the Texans three first-round picks in the deal.
Stefanski’s mention of accuracy is reflected in Watson’s career numbers with Houston. Watson completed 1,186 of 1,748 passes over four seasons, a 67.8% completion rate, for 14,538 yards with 104 touchdown passes and 39 interceptions.
— Jeff Schudel (@jsproinsider) June 1, 2022
Baker Mayfield played four seasons with the Browns and completed 1,185 of 1,934 passes (61.6%) for 14,125 yards with 92 touchdown passes and 56 interceptions. Mayfield is 29-30 as a starter. Watson is 28-25.
Mayfield is still on the Browns’ roster, but he is not participating in the voluntary OTAs and he is not expected to attend the mandatory three-day minicamp later this month as the Browns continue their efforts to trade him.
“(Watson) is very dynamic,” offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt said. “The accuracy and arm strength stand out. His football knowledge is vast. He’s learning our system as we go, but you can tell he has a lot of football experience in his body. He’s fun to watch, and this is just in the settings of controlled pockets. Going back and watching the tape, he’s a tremendous player outside the pocket as well.”
Van Pelt has a close, personal relationship with Mayfield, so he will never trash the exiled Browns quarterback. In fact, when asked about Mayfield on June 1, Van Pelt answered: “That’s a tough one. You have to keep personal relationships personal, but I think Baker is a very good quarterback and has a good future ahead of him.”
Still, Van Pelt and Stefanski concluded the offense needing fixing after last season. The Browns were a disappointing 8-9 after making the playoffs in the 2020 season. Mayfield was 6-8 as a starter.
A shift from using three tight ends often in 2020 and 2021 is in progress. That movement started when the Browns released tight end Austin Hooper in March.
“We needed to work on our passing game and our dropback passing game, whether that’s two tight ends and two wides or three wide receivers,” Van Pelt said on June 1. “That’s definitely an area of emphasis for us. Going in, we’re treating this camp like a passing camp, more or less.
“I think at the end of this we will have 350 passes versus live competition and seven-on-seven periods. We definitely focused on our drop-back passing game as a point of emphasis this offseason.”
The Browns have another OTA practice June 2 and then three more next week before the mandatory minicamp starting June 14. The band won’t get together again after minicamp until training camp starts in late July. By then, the coaches should have a good handle on how they can customize the playbook to take advantage of Watson’s athleticism.
“There are different things we’ll be able to do,” Van Pelt said. “I think moving forward with him, we’ll take some of the things he did well in Houston and implement them into our system. At the same time, obviously, we’re a run-first offense, and we’re never going to shy away from handing the ball off to Nick (Chubb) and Kareem (Hunt).”
Chubb said opponents won’t be able to stack a safety near the line of scrimmage to slow him or Hunt because the defense will have to be on the lookout for Watson to take off and run.