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News & Notes: Browns 'excited' to have Deshaun Watson back, but focus remains on Texans

The Browns are eager to play their first game with Watson but are otherwise keeping things normal in their preparation for the Texans


Deshaun Watson took his first throws as the Browns' starting QB during the Browns' indoor practice Wednesday at CrossCountry Mortgage Campus.

On Sunday in Houston, he'll take his first throws in an actual game and make his Browns debut, a game that's been circled on the Browns' calendar all season once the league announced Watson would be suspended the first 11 games for violating the league's personal conduct policy. With Watson officially back, the Browns will look to expand their playbook on offense to maximize his wide array of skills — and the main goal, of course, is to build a winning streak in the final six games that could push them to the playoffs.

Watson has been able to practice with the Browns for the last two weeks, and the reviews from his teammates for how he's looked suggest Watson will be able to provide an immediate lift.

"He's special," RB Nick Chubb said. "He's a playmaker. He puts the ball exactly where he needs it to go. Guys like that. Guys are excited. We all are. We're ready." 

While Watson's return has generated a bit of an extra buzz heading into Week 13, the Browns are keeping a normal vibe to the week inside the locker room. The focus is still on preparing for the Texans, whom the Browns aren't taking any less lightly because of their 1-9-1 record.

"It's an excitement for sure," LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah said. "We're a diverse team. Watson provides a diverse aspect of the offense to be in, not a different type of system, but provide more diversity. It's an excitement. Is it a different vibe in reference to our intention? No, our intention is still to win, still to work hard and still to execute."

Head coach Kevin Stefanski echoed that sentiment Wednesday as well — a new era might be beginning, but it's otherwise the same team with the same mindset of taking the season one week at a time.

"For this football team, for Deshaun and for the offense in particular to your question, they need to focus on playing good football this week," he said. "The big picture of what that means and that type of thing, I don't think our guys are worried about that. We have to worry about our preparation this week and make sure that we have a good plan for Houston. 

"We're excited that Deshaun is able to play for us. We're excited that he's back out there. The guys have enjoyed, like we mentioned, back in the room the last few weeks. Having him out on the field will bring an element to our offense that is different, but how different I think remains to be seen."

Check out photos of players and coaches working to prepare for the teams regular season game against the Houston Texans

Defense improves in 'little increments'

The Browns will look to once again show strides on defense against Houston one week after they played one of their best games of the season against QB Tom Brady and the Buccaneers.

Cleveland held Tampa Bay to 17 points, tied for its second-lowest total in a game this season. The run defense, which has struggled to stay consistent this season, limited the Buccaneers to 96 total yards on the ground. Big plays were largely prevented, and a shutout in the fourth quarter and overtime enabled the Browns to come back late and grab the win.

"Communication was good," CB Denzel Ward said. "Playing fast out there, physical, and I think everybody's just on the same page. We were able to hold a great offense with Tom Brady and those guys, and hopefully we can build off that this week."

The group is still far from perfect and must show it can uphold those positives for a second consecutive week, but the improvements have contributed to the Browns' belief that they catch fire in the last six games.

"Yeah, little increments here and there," Owusu-Koramoah said. "We still have a lot of stuff to work on and a lot of mistakes to fix. From this point, yeah, I think we made some little adjustments, and we're getting better as time goes on."

Injury Updates

The Browns were missing just one player, TE David Njoku (knee), due to injury in practice Wednesday. Myles Garrett, Joel Bitonio, Jadeveon Clowney, Nick Chubb and Amari Cooper were all given rest days.

Stefanski said he wasn't going to rule out Njoku for Sunday's game, and said Garrett, who aggravated a shoulder injury last week, was "right where he's been" and was just receiving rest on the first practice day of the week.

"These guys, as you know, just played an overtime game on Sunday, so trying to be smart about what we do with the guys and make sure that they are fresh come Sunday," he said.

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