After 700+ days, Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson made his return to the football field on Sunday against his former team in the Houston Texans. Watson had a turbulent offseason that included multiple sexual misconduct allegations, hearings with court appointed judges, a six game suspension extended out to 11 games, and having his public image essentially destroyed by a lawyer whose motives are questioned by few.
However, the former Texan was able to get back on the field and start at quarterback for the Browns. His first game back didn’t go very well as Watson threw for 131 yards at a 12/22 completion rate and was intercepted once.
Context matters when analyzing Watson’s return performance. Before Sunday’s matchup with the Houston Texans, the last time Deshaun Watson played in a regular season game was January 3, 2021. He sat out last season so he has been out of football for almost two years.
If you were expecting Deshaun Watson to look like anything like he did in his 2020 season in which he played like a top five quarterback despite the Houston Texans finishing 4-12 your expectations were unrealistic. He was rusty, but Browns fans shouldn’t be concerned about his performance.
He had his moments in which he showed why he is an elite quarterback with his maneuverability in the pocket and his ability to extend plays. Watson’s bad moments outweighed the good. Oftentimes, when Watson threw low and uncatchable balls to his receivers. He wasn’t necessarily accurate and the throws were often late.
Watson’s performance against the Texans shouldn’t be a cause for concern. He has the rest of the season to salvage together some quality performances and has the talent to do just that. In fact, let’s analyze a particular play with a closer lens.
Jalen Pitre PICKS OFF Deshaun Watson 👀🔥 pic.twitter.com/lCAs0CbgpR
— NFL Rookie Watch (@NFLRookieWatxh) December 4, 2022
Cleveland lines up in a bunch 11 personnel formation with an extra offensive lineman (11 personnel is one tight end, one running back, and three wide receivers). Hjalte Froholdt, who is filling in at center for Ethan Pocic, allows penetration from Houston Texans defensive tackle Michael Dwumfour.
Watson is under pressure which throws his ability to process the play around him off. He didn’t recognize Jalen Pitre who was able to recognize where Watson was going to throw and made a great play. It was a bad throw by Watson but give credit to the rookie Jalen Pitre for making a great play.
As for how the Browns offense will look going forward, I expect head coach Kevin Stefanski to open up the playbook to fit Deshaun Watson’s skill set. The offense looked out of sync and out of sorts on Sunday, the play-calling was extremely conservative. The Brown’s inept offense was to be expected when you are transitioning from a backup quarterback in Jacoby Brissett to a starting quarterback in Deshaun Watson.
The offense under Jacoby Brissett was mainly conservative with emphasis on the running game with a few shot plays down the field off of play action but it was very efficient. With Watson under center, the offense will be more dynamic and Stefanski will be able to dial up plays in ways he couldn’t do for Brissett. As for Deshaun Watson, I don’t expect him to play as poorly as he did moving forward.
Yes, Watson has a ton of baggage because of his allegations of misconduct and a ton of people are rooting for his downfall. But, if you think he will play poorly again like he did against Houston you are mistaken. Watson will get used to game speed and he can do a lot more in the offense but his performance against Houston shouldn’t be a cause for concern.