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Browns Mailbag: How will the offensive line adjust to more games with Deshaun Watson?

Staff writer Anthony Poisal answers your pre-training camp questions


The countdown to training camp has whittled down to one day.

Yep, that's right. It all starts tomorrow at The Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia for the first week of camp. Seven practices await on the road trip, which will be used to kick the Browns into high gear in the days leading up to the Hall of Fame Game on Aug. 3 in Canton.

We're opening up the mailbag before boarding the plane.

Will the offensive line be as effective at pass blocking this year considering that for the last few years it has been good as a run blocking offense? - James Adams, McKean, PA

That's the big question the position faces this year — will they be able to adjust to blocking for the more mobile Deshaun Watson?

It seems easy to say "yes" to that question when you consider the group has three Pro Bowl players in Joel Bitonio, Wyatt Teller and Jack Conklin. None of those guys, though, have blocked for a QB with the level of elusiveness as Watson, so it'll still certainly be a big adjustment for the whole group to make.

Those adjustments, in a nutshell, are all about sticking with blocks a bit longer than offensive linemen are used to. If Watson is able to dodge an edge rusher or decides to push a play outside the pocket, the blockers will have to read and react to that decision. That's easier said than done when the QB is almost always behind them for the entirety of a play.

It's a challenge the offensive line will be taking head-on throughout training camp.

"There's definitely work," Bitonio said. "I think (we'll) get more plays in the structure that Deshaun feels comfortable with and that we can feel comfortable with. Even when he was here for last year's training camp, you take 10-11 weeks off in the season you work with another guy like Jacoby (Brissett), it's a different world for him.

"But I think training camp is when it really gets ramped up, when you have guys flying in front and having to move in the pocket a little bit. I think he's always going to try and make plays with his legs and extend plays, and that's what makes him special."

Check out photos of quarterbacks, rookies and coaches working before camp

Which player stuck out to you in OTA's this year and why? - Mason Compiseno, Rocky River, OH

We're going to re-work this question a bit and keep the focus on training camp, so I'll instead talk about some players who stuck in OTAs I'm most excited to see in coming weeks.

The first one who comes to mind is WR Elijah Moore, and we covered some of those reasons why in our WR preview. He was impossible to miss in spring practices, and it should be fun to see how the Browns use him across their formation in training camp. There will be no shortage of opportunities for Moore to contribute in the regular season, but his production all starts with deepening his chemistry with Watson over the next month and a half.

Another receiver I'm eager to see is Cedric Tillman. The rookie third-round pick didn't look out of place in the spring and instantly stood out with his big frame. He looked smooth catching the football and had some bounce that helped him reach for deep balls. His production at Tennessee (1,081 receiving yards and 12 TDs in 2021) was good enough to believe he could contribute sooner than later on an NFL roster, too.

The big question with Tillman is about where he'll fit in a crowded wide receiver room. The top spots on the depth chart obviously belong to Amari Cooper and Moore, with Donovan Peoples-Jones and Marquise Goodwin probably sliding behind them. Can Tillman still work his way into carving a steady dose of snaps in the regular season by performing well in camp?

I wouldn't rule it out.

If there was one more position group you would add to this offseason, which would it be? - Brad Koch, Youngstown OH

My answer now is the same as it was a few months back, and there are really two positions in particular where I could see some training camp additions completed: defensive tackle and running back.

It's not that the Browns don't like who they have there now — they do. But at defensive tackle, Dalvin Tomlinson is the only player who has sustained production at the NFL level, so another veteran player could provide an upgrade to the room. At running back, Jerome Ford is set to be the backup for Nick Chubb, but there isn't an experienced rusher behind them.

Roster additions don't necessarily have to be made now. There will be lots of veterans who potentially hit the open market at the end of training camp when 53-man roster cuts are made, and the Browns could wait to plug any other holes they might still see until then.

Long time Browns who just relocated south (Charlotte) but still follows the team closely. I really like the Browns roster as it is currently constituted but it seems like every offseason we have the same crush on the team in June but then the season arrives and.... you know the story!! Why should we be optimistic this year that things will be different? Thank you! - Chris Holmes, Huntersville NC

Yeah, the results of the past couple seasons haven't matched the anticipation that preceded in training camp. The excitement is no doubt high this year again, and I think the main reason why the optimism should feel different this year is because of the quarterback.

Watson has helped build strong offenses before, and he didn't get to do that last year because of his 11-game suspension and oddness of training camp. This year has felt different, and Watson's body language and overall crispness in spring practices have backed up his own comments of feeling more comfortable and ready to take charge of the crucial season ahead.

"I feel really good," Watson said in June. "Like I said before, the biggest thing is the confidence level. Who I am trusting, what I do trust in the work that I put in these past couple of years to get back to this position I'm in, and having the opportunity to go out there and try to win some games and do it with the guys that we have on the field. So I'm enjoying myself, I'm having fun and I just keep stacking days."

There's still a long way to go and a lot of work left until Week 1, but the offense feels it's in great hands with Watson, and we'll only learn more about how much better the pass game can be as we digest practices over the next several weeks.