Any Joe Schmo can walk into the Louvre in Paris, stand in front of the Mona Lisa for a few minutes, say, “That’s pretty cool,” then move on to the next painting.
A true art connoisseur would be most impressed by Leonardo da Vinci’s famous masterpiece and perhaps spend hours gazing at it.
Browns coach Kevin Stefanski is like that art connoisseur describing what Deshaun Watson can do with a football. Even a casual fan could see that Watson is a gifted athlete, but Stefanski breaks down what Watson does best like only a coach can.
PHOTOS: Brown’s OTA, June 1, 2022
“His physical abilities jump out at you on the pitch,” Stefanski said after voluntary training on June 1 at the Berea training complex. “His shot, as AVP (offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt) would say, how the ball goes out, how fast it goes out, where is his elbow and hand in relation to that ball going out, the speed and all those things from that gender.
“It’s impressive to see this caliber of player being able to get the ball out of his hand quickly and with great precision. As we all know, that’s so important.
Watson was healthy last season but hasn’t played a game for the Texans in 2021, partly because in January of last year he asked to be traded and partly because of the 22 ( now 23) Civil lawsuits filed in March and April 2021 accusing Watson of sexual harassment.
Offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt is delighted with David Njoku’s contract extension. He is excited about Deshaun Watson, but he says the #Brunettes will always be a first attack with Nick Chub and Kareem Hunt. pic.twitter.com/81C6sadrrL
— Jeff Schudel (@jsproinsider) June 1, 2022
The Browns acquired Watson from the Texans on March 18 for six draft picks. They sent the Texans three first-round picks in the deal.
Stefanski’s mention of accuracy is reflected in Watson’s career numbers with Houston. Watson completed 1,186 of 1,748 passes in four seasons, a 67.8 percent completion rate, for 14,538 yards with 104 touchdowns and 39 interceptions.
— Jeff Schudel (@jsproinsider) June 1, 2022
Baker Mayfield played four seasons with the Browns and completed 1,185 of 1,934 passes (61.6%) for 14,125 yards with 92 touchdowns and 56 interceptions. Mayfield is 29-30 as a starter. Watson is 28-25 years old.
Mayfield is still on the Browns’ roster, but he’s not participating in voluntary OTAs and he’s not expected to attend the mandatory three-day minicamp later this month as the Browns continue efforts to trade him.
“(Watson) is very dynamic,” offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt said. “The precision and strength of the arms stand out. His knowledge of football is extensive. He’s learning our system as he goes, but you can tell he’s got a lot of football experience in his body. It’s fun to watch, and that’s only in controlled handheld settings. Coming back and looking at the board, he’s a terrific player out of pocket too.
Van Pelt has a close personal relationship with Mayfield, so he will never trash the exiled Browns quarterback. In fact, when asked about Mayfield on June 1, Van Pelt replied, “That’s a tough question. You have to keep your personal relationships personal, but I think Baker is a really good quarterback and has a bright future ahead of him.
Still, Van Pelt and Stefanski concluded the attack needed fixing after last season. The Browns were a disappointing 8-9 after making the 2020 season playoffs. Mayfield was 6-8 as a starter.
A shift to using three tight ends often in 2020 and 2021 is underway. That move started when the Browns released tight end Austin Hooper in March.
“We had to work on our passing game and our back passing game, whether it was two tight ends and two wide or three wide receivers,” Van Pelt said on June 1. “It’s definitely an area that we focus on. Going in, we treat this camp as a walk-through camp, more or less.
“I think in the end we’ll have 350 assists against live competition and seven-on-seven periods. We’ve definitely focused on our back pass game as a point of attention this offseason.
The Browns have another OTA practice on June 2, then three more next week before the mandatory minicamp starting June 14. The group will no longer meet after minicamp until training camp begins in late July. By then, coaches should have a good idea of how they can customize the playbook to take advantage of Watson’s athleticism.
“There are different things we can do,” Van Pelt said. “I think going forward with him, we’ll take some of the things he did well in Houston and implement them into our system. At the same time, obviously, we’re offense first, and we will never hesitate to give the ball to Nick (Chubb) and Kareem (Hunt).
Chubb said opponents won’t be able to pile up a safety near the line of scrimmage to slow him or Hunt down, as the defense will have to be on the lookout for Watson to take off and run.