Deshaun Watson’s injury baffles the Cleveland Browns: he’s not Patrick Mahomes Deshaun Watson has been medically cleared to play Myles Garrett walked out of the stadium wearing cleats, a fitting accessory for a Browns team coming off a bye week.
Cleveland’s first four games left their mark. The Browns lost star running back Nick Chubb and two-time All-Pro Jack Conklin to season-ending knee injuries in the first two weeks. On Sunday, Baltimore was without quarterback Deshaun Watson, who has an injured right shoulder, and their momentum was derailed in a demoralizing 28-3 loss. Between Watson’s illness — and there are still questions about exactly what’s wrong — and Garrett dealing with a left foot problem and center Ethan Pocic dealing with knee and chest injuries, the Browns have the perfect break. “It’s an early goodbye, but I think it comes at the right time,” linebacker Anthony Walker Jr. said. “It comes at a time when we just needed to reset and refocus.”
The Browns (2-2) confirm that Watson’s shoulder is structurally sound with only a bruise. And if coach Kevin Stefanski is to be believed, the QB will be back for the Oct. 15 game against San Francisco. But Watson and the Browns assured him last week he would play against the Ravens – until he didn’t. Kevin Stefanski hasn’t released much about injuries during his four years in Cleveland, but he made sure to let everyone know that Deshaun Watson was medically cleared to play. Cleveland had no chance against Baltimore, as the performance of rookie backup Dorian Thompson-Robinson confirmed that the exhibition season was nothing more than practice games to break up the monotony of training camp. He wasn’t ready.
The lopsided loss capped a difficult week for the Browns. Chubb later underwent surgery that revealed he would need another to repair his torn ACL. Tight end David Njoku burned himself by starting a fire at his home, and Watson, who was limited in practice during the week, told the Browns he was unable to play after a handful of pregame warmups. While Watson’s injury may not be serious, it could change how the Browns use him going forward. His running ability is part of what makes Watson such a threat, and now Stefanski and coordinator Alex Van Pelt may have to tweak the playbook a lot. Watson needs to be protected, but the Browns can only do so much if he pushes the ball, explodes and gets big hits like the one he ran against Tennessee last week. Chubb’s injury has already destroyed the run game, and minimizing Watson’s play will make Cleveland’s offense more predictable from the opening round and therefore easier to stop.
Stefanski implied that the decision not to play Watson was made by the QB, who was playing his best game since signing a $230 million contract with Cleveland. “He knows his body. He’s played in serious pain before, very serious injuries,” Stefanski said Monday. “It wasn’t about pain tolerance. He just didn’t feel like he had his full potential.” He has time to get them back. WHAT’S WRONG Garrett continues to be a great, unique force. When Cleveland’s top-rated defense couldn’t contain Ravens QB Lamar Jackson, who had two TD runs and two touchdown passes, Garrett did his part, providing pressure despite the usual extra attention. He recorded another sack and was credited with three quarterback hurries. WHO NEEDS HELP The running game has become neutral. Cleveland’s inability to run the ball effectively in the first half Sunday put even more pressure on Thompson-Robinson.
The fifth-round draft pick was confused at the time, but didn’t get nearly enough help from teammates or coaches. STORE Not only did Njoku play after the painful accident, he was Cleveland’s most effective player with a team-high 46 yards. “The way he played was unbelievable to me with what he went through,” Stefanski said. “And not just the passing game, but the running game. He’s the first guy to pick his teammates off the ground. A warrior. It was impressive to watch.” IN STOCK General manager Andrew Berry’s decision to trade veteran Joshua Dobbs and go with Thompson-Robinson as Watson’s backup has come under renewed scrutiny. Thompson-Robinson showed a lot of promise, but the Browns took a big risk by not having an experienced QB behind Watson, and it’s already come back to haunt them.
Injuries:Stefanski said Garrett’s injury is “day to day” but the Browns “feel good about him.”
Walker joked that his high-profile teammate was good. “I don’t care about Myles Garrett — ever,” Walker said. – I told him that he had to take off those boots immediately, because he did it just for the show. He’s ready to go.” Pocic went out in the first half with a chest injury, came back and hurt his knee. Stefanski said Pocic would not play if there was a game this week. Key NUMBER 53 – Dustin Hopkin’s field goal was Cleveland’s only point on Sunday. Acquired in a trade two weeks before the opener, Hopkins returned 50 yards or more in three straight games.
WHAT’S NEXT Rest, relaxation and then reality when the mighty 49ers (4-0) arrive in Cleveland to host Dallas on Sunday night in October. 8