Game too fast for Deshaun Watson in Browns debut

Dec 4, 2022; Houston, Texas, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) in action during the game against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 4, 2022; Houston, Texas, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) in action during the game against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports /

The much-anticipated return of Deshaun Watson ended in a dud. Watson who has not played for 700 days, looked overmatched and the game appeared too fast.

Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson’s debut showed exactly how difficult it is to play in the NFL. Without having played for 700 days, Watson’s performance resembled that of a rookie making his first NFL start.

During his Browns debut Watson was booed by the Houston Texans home crowd. His play was so bad, maybe the Browns fans should have been the one’s booing.  Watson clearly struggled in his debut leaving fans to wonder if the three first round picks were well spent.

Game too fast for Deshaun Watson

The game was clearly too fast for him. He made several rushed throws that landed at the feet of receivers. He threw an interception after failing to notice that a linebacker was playing zone instead of man coverage. He looked like a rookie who was panicking under pressure.

While Kevin Stefanski did open up the offense to several option style plays to take advantage of Watson as a running threat, it became clear after three quarters that Watson wasn’t going to get into the swing of things after one game. The Browns ran the ball for most of the fourth quarter even though the score suggested they should play aggressively.

Watson looked like he was panicking under pressure. Yet, there were times where he flashed his accuracy and ability to make plays with his legs. There are several areas that Watson, and the offense, needs to improve upon to get back into the groove.

What needs to happen?

First, Watson needs to play. Again, the game was clearly too fast for Watson. He needs to play for it to slow down for him again. An NFL rookie quarterback takes about 6 to 8 weeks for the game to slow down. One hopes the learning curve will be shorter for Watson.

Second, Watson is learning a new offense. The Kevin Stefanksi style wide zone offense, which is of the Shannahan lineage, is very complex. Watson is still learning the mechanics of the offense. 

On several plays, Watson’s footwork disrupted the angle of the running back. But the real strain of the offense is on the mental preparation for the quarterback. The offense requires a quarterback to diagnose defenses pre and post snap. This game was Week 1 of Watson in a new offense that is notoriously difficult on quarterbacks. The offense remains a work in progress.

Third, Watson is learning new wide receivers who are simultaneously learning him. The current group of wideouts are used to catching passes from quarterback Jacoby Brissett. All quarterbacks throw the ball different. This receiving group bobbled some well thrown balls yesterday, not because they can’t catch, but because the ball has a different spin and arriving in a different location than it has for the previous 11 games.

Also, receivers aren’t used to a scrambling quarterback. Unlike Brissett, Watson can scramble and throw off the run. This current group of receivers aren’t used to getting the ball thrown to them when the quarterback is scrambling.

Anthony Schwartz looked a little surprised when Watson threw him the ball off a scramble. But scrambling is a part of Watson’s game. The wide receiver group needs to adjust to a new way of doing things under Watson.

Fourth, Watson will have to learn to play in the cold. One of the critiques of Watson is that he doesn’t play well in cold weather. Well, he now plays in the AFC North. That reality is about to hit him like a ton of bricks.

The Browns traded three first round picks for Watson. He is still worth every pick. But he will need about 3 to 6 games to get back into form. If fans see the Watson of old by the end of the season, that will be a major win for the franchise.