Updated: Sep 20
Football season is back in Berea! After all the hype of last season, the Browns know better than anyone that Super Bowls are not won in the summer. I had a chance to head to Berea on Tuesday to see the team in person. It's always fun to check out the team in person, but this year felt more special with the new look roster Andrew Berry, Kevin Stefanski and the Browns have put together.
While the first preseason game is Friday night in Jacksonville. the team still has a cloud of uncertainty hanging over them with the Deshaun Watson situation. Suspension news could be coming any day now for the troubled QB, as the NFL trudges along with their appeal process. In the meantime, he looks like a QB eager to get back into game action with his new teammates.
Watching Watson shine in training camp feels like a tease. Me, as well as everyone else in the crowd, knows they will likely not be seeing Watson trot out against Carolina Week 1. Pending announcement from Peter Harvey, it could be a lot longer than that. Either way, Watson is lighting up training camp, and I’m not just talking about all the national media attention that comes with having Watson in the building. His connection with newly acquired wide receiver Amari Cooper already looks nearly flawless. Their timing is impeccable. The only imperfection came on a deep ball that just glanced off Cooper’s fingertips.
Watson steps up in the pocket with ease and comfort. He goes through his reads comfortably when under pressure. Late in practice, he stepped up in the pocket and hit Harrison Bryant for a 30-yard strike. In case you were wondering, yes, tight ends continue to be a HUGE part of head coach Kevin Stefanski’s offense.
Staying on offense, Kareem Hunt is still practicing and breaking tackles left and right. Nick Chubb sat out this practice I attended, which gave Jerome Ford a longer look. He nonchalantly broke multiple tackles for a long touchdown run. The running back room remains loaded, so something is going to have to give in order to get all these guys reps.
The same can not be said about the receiver room, which continues to shrink by the day. Jakeem Grant, who was signed in the offseason to bring some star potential to the return game while also showing he could be a factor on offense, went down early in practice with what is now being confirmed as a torn achilles, a big blow to an area of the team that was already not the strongest on the depth chart. In year two, Anthony Schwartz' struggles are continuing. He had three drops early and also ran the wrong route on another possession. That leaves Cooper, Donovan Peoples-Jones, rookie David Bell, and a bunch of guys fighting for a roster spot. It will be interesting to see if they add to the WR room before the season begins.
The only on the field kryptonite for Watson may just be the Browns secondary. I was more impressed with the secondary than any other position group, and it was not particularly close. Greg Newsome looks like an All-Pro in the making, which is a luxury to have opposite recently extended pro bowl cornerback Denzel Ward. The safety position is just as impressive. John Johnson III picked off Watson early in practice on a ball intended for David Njoku. Grant Delpit was flying all over the field sideline to sideline. He sure looks like a guy who is going to start over Ronnie Harrison. The front seven continues to be a question mark besides Myles Garrett and Jadaveon Clowney.
Even with the Watson situation looming, this team still has a TON of talent. Brissett looked good in practice, although still a few steps behind Watson. This team’s chemistry seemed a million times better compared to last season. Watson genuinely gets along with all of his teammates, and all the guys just seem like they fit together, unlike last season. Many of the guys spent time after practice making sure to give autographs to all the kids. The last on the field were the quarterbacks: Jacoby Brissett, Josh Rosen, and then…you guessed it, DeShaun Watson.
We all know he is on a redemption tour, but everyone in the crowd on Tuesday August 9th was ecstatic anytime they got a chance to yell to No. 4. Now we all just sit back and wait for Peter Harvey’s ruling on when we will get to see the star QB in action. Until then, Browns fans can get excited about the rest of this roster. They have real talent up and down the field on both sides of the ball that should showcase itself throughout the 2022 season.
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