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Minicamp Notebook: Deshaun Watson 'getting his rhythm back' in offseason program

Watson looked sharp throughout the entirety of the first practice of mandatory minicamp


The Browns couldn't have been much more pleased with what they saw out of their starting quarterback on Day 1 of mandatory minicamp.

Deshaun Watson rarely missed receivers on the first of three days of practice with the full roster. He unloaded a couple accurate deep balls and carried strong connections with Amari Cooper, Donovan Peoples-Jones, Elijah Moore and Marquise Goodwin during seven-on-seven drills in Tuesday's practice.

Yes, it's only June and the Browns are still seven weeks away from pads coming on, but it couldn't have looked much better for Watson to open camp.

"He made a throw today (where), right when he released it, I said, 'Great throw,'" Cooper said. "I didn't even know if it was a great throw. I just felt that it was, and it was right on the money."

Check out the action from practice at CrossCountry Mortgage Campus as the Browns go through Veteran Minicamp

Cooper, who said he was out of the play when Watson made that particular pass, was the recipient of several of Watson's best balls throughout the day. The duo didn't appear to show any rust that might've formed over the six months that have passed since they last worked together in Berea — or from Cooper's offseason core muscle surgery.

With Cooper back and participating in team drills after being limited to individual drills last week during the open OTA practice, Watson worked with a full set of starting weapons for the first time this offseason. He didn't take it for granted, either, especially during red zone drills when he found Cooper, Moore and Peoples-Jones all for touchdowns.

Cooper and Peoples-Jones' scores were leaping grabs where the ball was well-placed, while Moore's was a nice toe-tap touchdown near the back left pylon. Peoples-Jones also caught a second touchdown near the back of the end zone.

Head coach Kevin Stefanski said that's how practices should look for the offense in the subdued settings of the spring.

"I think you always have to be real careful — I'm a former defensive back speaking now," Stefanski said. "Seven-on-seven is geared to the offense. You should complete balls in seven-on-seven."

Cooper echoed the same sentiments while still being impressed with the way Watson delivered the ball.

"When you have no pass rush, it's really like pitch and catch out there," he said. "Obviously, the (defensive backs) make plays sometimes, but it's not a level playing field for them when we're doing seven-on sevens, so it should look like that every time."

Despite the pass-friendly environment, the Browns should be encouraged by the smooth day from Watson, who's been hard at work this offseason at building chemistry with both new and returning receivers.

The Browns, of course, need Watson to return to the Pro Bowl form he held with the Texans for the offense to reach the explosiveness they envisioned when players such as Moore and Goodwin were added to the receiver room this offseason. It should lead to more deep ball opportunities, as well as create more chances for players such as Cooper to succeed in the middle of the field.

Tuesday certainly appeared to be a strong start toward that plan thanks to a solid day from Watson.

"He's definitely getting more comfortable and getting his rhythm back," Cooper said. "He's looking like Deshaun."

Here are other observations and notable moments from Tuesday's practice:

-One of the top defensive plays of the day came from rookie CB Cameron Mitchell, who caught a tipped pass for an interception.

-Unsurprisingly, Jakeem Grant Sr. and Peoples-Jones were the two punt returners during special teams drills. Stefanski said Grant is "coming along" well from the torn Achilles injury that forced him to miss all of last season.

-Rookie WR Cedric Tillman concluded the practice with arguably the catch of the day — a toe-tap touchdown grab during seven-on-seven red zone drills.

-Speaking of Tillman, he and Peoples-Jones were the two players who were used most at slot receiver. Defensively, CB Greg Newsome II mostly played slot snaps on the first team, although Denzel Ward also made occasional appearances in the role.

-One noteworthy piece of the defensive line combinations during 11-on-11 drills was Za'Darius Smith lining up inside in the second defensive tackle position while Ogbo Okoronkwo lined up on the outside. It's one example of how new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz will look to mold a versatile defense capable of exploiting weaknesses in an offense.

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