A new era for the Browns began this week with QB Deshaun Watson officially added to the active roster and set to start Sunday in Houston.
We're kicking off this week's Mailbag breaking down one of the biggest questions the Browns face with Watson back, and it's the first of three Qs we're answering as we prepare for a big game against the Texans.
How will the Browns adjust their offense to the addition of Deshaun Watson? - Charlie B., Springfield, Ohio
Kevin Stefanski was asked this exact question Monday, so we'll kick this answer off with what he said:
"'We will see' is probably the short answer. What we will always do is try to maximize the talents of our players, so there are things that you certainly will do with Deshaun. There were things that Jacoby (Brissett) was really good at. We just want to always be thinking about your players and doing what they do best. Ultimately, it's our job to look at our players who we have and what are the things that we want to do to maximize their talents."
Stefanski obviously wasn't going to break down the Xs and Os of what will change in his answer, but we got a decent sense of what the Browns could do with Watson when he worked with the first team for most of training camp and offseason workouts. Watson should help the Browns expand their playbook because of his mobility, which likely means some run-pass option and read option plays, QB rollouts and perhaps some designed QB runs are ahead — basically, any type of play that allows Watson to run with the ball and possibly deceive the defense.
We've known since his first season as the Browns' head coach that Stefanski loves to be creative, and having a shifty QB like Watson should allow him to tap even more into that side of the playbook. The threat of RBs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt will help the Browns amplify Watson's skills even more and give defenses a very difficult time preparing for them each week.
Stacking "the box," the middle of the level of the defense, with extra players should become less common, which means it'll be harder to stop Chubb and Hunt. When Chubb was asked Wednesday if he thinks Watson's presence will prevent teams from stuffing the box, he replied, "I hope so."
"I guess we won't know until Sunday," he said, "but I guess they'll have to come up with a better plan for whatever we do."
It might not be reasonable to expect the Browns to immediately boast a different-looking offense Sunday in Houston. Remember: Watson hasn't started an NFL game in nearly 700 days, and Stefanski acknowledged Wednesday that "there's plenty of tape out there the Texans already have" on Watson because they're his former team, after all.
Changes, however, will certainly take place with the offense.
"Having him out on the field will bring an element to our offense that is different," Stefanski said, "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
Why was QB Dobbs cut over QB Kellen Mond? Did anybody else sign Dobbs? How come Dobbs didn't play in the garbage times when the Browns were down by 20 points or better in the fourth quarter of games? - Stefanie Bay Frost, Petersburg, Virginia
Joshua Dobbs remains unsigned after he was waived Monday but could be brought back to the practice squad. As for why he was waived, it could be because Mond, 23, is younger than Dobbs, 27, and could be viewed as a player the Browns want to continue to develop. Mond is also a 2021 third-round pick whose rookie contract runs through 2024. Dobbs, meanwhile, was signed to a one-year deal as a free agent last offseason.
As for why Dobbs didn't take a snap in any lopsided losses, well, that's because it wasn't often the Browns were down that many points. Only two games, the 38-15 loss to the Patriots and 39-17 loss to the Dolphins, fell in the "blowout" category, and not all teams opt to switch their QBs when they're behind by several scores in the fourth quarter. The Browns simply trusted Brissett to finish the game.
What will we target in free agency? Will we spend money to bring in a superstar, and if not what is our target in the draft? - Matthew E., Indian Trail, North Carolina
As it stands now, positions of need for the Browns heading into the offseason could be defensive tackle, linebacker, wide receiver and possibly offensive tackle with Jack Conklin in the final year of the three-year deal he signed in 2020.
It's still too early to tell if the Browns will look to make a big splash in free agency, but Eagles DTs Fletcher Cox and Javon Hargrave — two wrecking balls who have helped anchor Philadelphia's top-tier defensive line — and Jets DT Sheldon Rankins are among the top interior defensive linemen set to hit free agency. Top LBs could include Lavonte David, Roquan Smith and Devin Bush. The WR free-agent class isn't as strong as previous offseasons and is set to include JuJu Smith-Schuster, Julio Jones, Nelson Agholor, Sterling Shepard and DJ Chark.
As for the draft, we've still got a ways to go until mock draft season arrives, but Dane Brugler from The Athletic released his first mock draft Wednesday and had the Browns taking DT Keeanu Benton from Wisconsin with their first pick in the second round.