Deshaun Watson can slowly sense his connections with his receivers deepening as the Browns near the end of their organized team activity period.
For the last week, Watson has prioritized growing his on-field chemistry with new pass catchers such as Elijah Moore and Marquise Goodwin — and extending his chemistry with returning players who were only able to play six games with Watson last season.
The efforts were apparent in the Browns' open practice last week when Watson attempted a few deep ball shots to Moore and other receivers. The low-tempo, no-pad setting of OTAs offers ample chances to throw passes, and Watson has appeared to take advantage of it by giving looks to every receiver present at the voluntary practices.
"It's coming along very well," Watson said at the Browns' Annual Golf Tournament at Westwood Country Club. "With all the guys, you've got to be able to adjust. Last week was our first time actually on the field throwing full-speed routes against defenders, so that timing is going to come. We've been spending a lot of time in the film room and outside the building. That chemistry and that connection of just being around each other and knowing how we're going to react to certain situations is definitely good."
Not all of those attempts resulted in completions, which is expected at this point of the year. For Watson, every rep offers a chance to learn something about a receiver — how they prefer to run a route, where they prefer the ball to be spotted and how they navigate through traffic are all things he can learn on a play regardless of how it ends.
That's how a QB develops trust with receivers, but the connections aren't built in overnight. Nor are they built after just a few weeks of spring practices.
The chemistry-building will take place leading all the way up to Week 1, but the Browns have full trust in Watson, a three-time Pro Bowler before arriving in Cleveland last year, to discover it with all the top weapons the Browns have in their room.
"I think it's (about) the timing," Watson said. "Being able to understand their breaks and how they get in and out of different routes and when man coverages come along, who can I rely on? Who can I go to when we need it the most?
"All those guys at the time — and of course it's still early — have those capabilities of being that guy."
Check out the best photos from all the action at CrossCountry Mortgage Campus as the Browns go through organized team activities
Amari Cooper Update
Head coach Kevin Stefanski, who also spoke to reporters Tuesday at the team golf outing, offered positive updates on the recovery of Pro Bowl WR Amari Cooper, who underwent core muscle surgery earlier in the offseason.
Stefanski said he expects Cooper to be ready for training camp and will "start doing some things" with the team this week.
No matter how much Cooper is able to practice, his presence alone will be a boost to the receivers room, particularly for younger players such as third-round rookie Cedric Tillman, second-year vet David Bell and others.
"Amari has been awesome in the meeting room for our players," Stefanski said. "Just to have an example of a player that does it the right way, even as simple as how meetings are and how you pay attention and work at your craft. I think Amari is a great example of that."
Stefanski also recently learned about Cooper's excellent skills at chess, one of his favorite hobbies.
"He's also a very good chess player," Stefanski said. "He kicked my butt the other day."
Harris, Wypler cross-training at guard
The Browns have used their OTAs to give fourth-year center Nick Harris and rookie center Luke Wypler an opportunity to play guard, too.
With Ethan Pocic solidified at starting center, it's no surprise to see the Browns offer the backups at the position a chance to increase their versatility. Center is arguably the deepest position the Browns have on their offensive line, and numerous centers in the NFL have the ability to cross-train at guards due to the similarity it contains as an interior blocker.
"I think sometimes when you become just a center, or just a slot receiver or just a slot corner, it limits your ability to, number one, make the team and number two, help the team," Stefanski said. "For all of our players, we're always pushing the boundaries on them being able to help us in different ways."
Harris, who missed all of last season due to a knee injury, has also made strong progress in his recovery.
"He's doing a great job," Stefanski said. "Nick works really, really hard. He's lived in our facility. He's in the weight room constantly getting treatment. He looks really, really good. Nick's played a lot of good football for us. He's played center and he's played guard."