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Alex Van Pelt impressed at 'dynamic' playmaking ability from Deshaun Watson

Van Pelt said the offense will be able to do “different things” with Watson under center


The early returns from Deshaun Watson have been promising to see from the perspective of Browns offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt.

Van Pelt, who's entering his third season in his role with the Browns, has worked closely with Watson as the Browns acclimate him into an offense that is being retooled to fit his skillset. Van Pelt has been only able to watch Watson work in the regulated tempo of organized team activity practices, but he's still been encouraged at the variety of throws Watson is capable of executing.

"He is very dynamic," Van Pelt said. "The accuracy and the arm strength are two of the things that stand out the most … He's fun to watch, and this is just in settings of controlled pockets."

Check out photos of players and coaches working throughout the offseason

The Browns won't be able to simulate plays where the pocket breaks down until training camp, but the tape from Watson's four seasons with the Texans showed he's capable of delivering sharp passes when defenders are chasing him.

Those abilities — and Watson's overall mobility — will be a big piece of how the Browns choose to evolve their playbook to maximize his traits. Changes are likely coming to coach Kevin Stefanski's playbook, which featured play-action oriented passes and a heavy emphasis on rushing plays, although the Browns won't feel pressured to alter too much if it's not needed.

With a quarterback like Watson, most systems can work. 

"There are different things we will be able to do," Van Pelt said. "I think moving forward with him, we will take some of the things that he did well in Houston and implement them into our system. At the same time, obviously, we are a run-first offense, and we are never going to shy away from handing the ball off to (RBs) Nick (Chubb) and Kareem (Hunt)."

Van Pelt has worked with a mobile, strong-armed quarterback before. 

He was the quarterbacks coach with the Packers from 2014-17, years where QB Aaron Rodgers was named to three Pro Bowls, built one First Team All-Pro season in 2014 and led the league in touchdowns in 2016. 

Rodgers was a supremely talented quarterback that Van Pelt maximized, and he sees similar traits in Watson.

"His ability to escape is top notch, elite in the league," he said. "Then his ability to make plays outside the pocket is up there, too. There are some similarities."

Watson has taken first- and second-team snaps so far in OTAs as the Browns look to give him as many reps as possible. They also want all receivers to grow comfortable catching passes from him, a job he makes easier because of his ability to spot throws on all levels of the field. 

The Browns have several young wide receivers on the roster and likely will need a couple of them to step up in 2022 for the pass game to stay consistent. 2020 sixth-rounder Donovan Peoples-Jones, 2021 third-rounder Anthony Schwartz and 2022 third-rounder David Bell have been among the most-used pass catchers in team drills, and the Browns will give each of them every opportunity to prove they can handle a big role in a pass offense they expect to take off in 2022. 

"The guys who are going to be in the mix need to step up now," Van Pelt said. "Now is the time they are getting plenty of reps in there, and as we get into the minicamp at the end, we should have a good feel about who we have at the receiver position. Those guys are working extremely hard." 

The Browns have an intricate plan to ensure the 10 days they have for OTAs isn't wasted. Van Pelt said the Browns have treated the workouts like "a passing camp" and will complete roughly 350 pass plays against live competition and seven-on-seven periods by the end of minicamp. They're six practices deep into OTAs now before a full roster is back in Cleveland for three days, which will provide the best chance to evaluate Watson before training camp begins in August.

The work so far, though, has met the level the Browns hoped for from Watson.

"His football knowledge is vast," Van Pelt said. "He's learning our system as we go, but you can tell he has a lot of football experience in his body."

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