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News & Notes: Deshaun Watson looking to 'hold up to that standard' in first Browns start

Watson has been primarily focused on staying mentally ready in his preparation to become the Browns’ starting QB


Deshaun Watson is looking to keep things simple as he heads into his first start as the Browns' starting quarterback Sunday in Houston.

In what will be his first start in 700 days, Watson, who served an 11-game suspension this season for violating the league's personal conduct policy, believes he'll be able to step in and operate the offense at the same, if not higher level than it had performed prior to his suspension. 

"Before, (with) Jacoby (Brissett), I think our offense was in the top five in pretty much every category," he said. "I have to hold up to that standard and do everything that I can — don't try to do anything special and just try to let the game come to me and execute whatever needs to be for the quarterback."

Watson acknowledged that it could take some time to fully knock off the rust that's been built from not playing in an NFL game in two years.

"It might take time, or it might not take time," he said. "I just want to go out there, do what I want to do and make plays as much as I possibly can. Two years is definitely a long time, but at the same time, I've been doing this since I was six years old. Just like riding a bike, I'm going to go out there, just find the pedals, get my transition going and then let everything come to me, don't press it and don't make anything bigger than what it really is."

Watson's first practice with the team was on Nov. 16, and he's been allowed at CrossCountry Mortgage Campus to work out with the team's training staff, attend meetings and meet individually with coaches since Oct. 10. To stay sharp, Watson has prepared each week as though he'd start the next game and has spent ample time speaking with Brissett, who did an admirable job piloting the offense as the interim starter, about how each game went.

"I think my biggest focus was the mental part of the game," he said. "Staying locked in on defensive schemes. Staying locked in also as much as I can with the scheme that we have here with the Cleveland Browns and with Kevin. Trying to watch from afar and learn and see what Jacoby was seeing on the field."

At 4-7, the Browns need to build a win streak — one that possibly extends to the end of the season — for a shot at the playoffs. With Watson, a three-time Pro Bowler, now under center, the Browns believe they can catch fire and do so.

Watson believes that, too, but he's still echoing what his other teammates have said all week: The focus is on beating the Texans and getting another win, and not about the start of a new era at the QB position.

"I think my biggest responsibility is just doing what the scheme allows me to do, and that is executing the gameplan, getting the ball to the playmakers' hands and just try to win and try to put up points," he said. "We can't focus on the next game, we can't focus on two games or three games down the road. We have to worry about being 1-0 this week and focus on that."

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

WRs regain chemistry with Watson

A change at QB means the Browns receivers will have to rediscover the chemistry they found with Watson when he worked on the first team during training camp.

For Watson, that process includes relearning when receivers prefer to run or cut in their routes and where they like the ball placed on certain throws and plays. For receivers, it includes adjusting to the pace at which Watson throws the ball — which offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt said is a bit faster than Brissett.

"I think he is probably a little more of a firm ball than Jacoby," he said. "I think they both throw very catchable balls. It's just a matter of getting used to that tempo of the ball coming out of his hand."

Cooper said he was impressed at how well Watson is able to break down each receiver's tendencies just by watching their film.

"He has great anticipation, but really, you attribute that to his hard work," Cooper said. "He's real good at, 'OK, this is my receiver. I'm going to look at film of him to see how he runs routes' so that he can know how to anticipate throwing you certain routes."


Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer praised WR Donovan Peoples-Jones for showcasing the strides he's made as a punt returner in last Sunday's game against the Buccaneers. Peoples-Jones had a season-high five punt returns Sunday and totaled 75 return yards, including a 29-yard return, for the best punt return performance of his three-year career.

"We have been trying to get him to run downhill since he has been here," Priefer said. "He's not a quick-twitch guy that is going to make people miss right at the point of attack, but he's very athletic, and once he gets going, he has some pretty good speed … Donovan did a great job of hitting those seams and had a really nice day for us. The field position on Sunday was huge, as you guys know, punt and punt return especially."

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