Yahoo Sports NFL Writers Charles Robinson and Jori Epstein discuss expectations on the Cleveland Browns and QB Deshaun Watson for the 2023 season, and debate if Watson can return to the level of play he showed in his final year in Houston.
CHARLES ROBINSON: To me, this is such a pivotal moment for the Cleveland Browns, this season. Because we've gone through an offseason where literally another quarterback's negotiation, that being Lamar Jackson and the Ravens, has kind of, in a weird way, weighed on Cleveland.
Because people keep talking about Deshaun Watson. They keep talking about Deshaun Watson's deal. They keep talking about how bad it is. And so Watson and the Browns have kind of gotten snowballed up in all these other things that are getting talked about in a very negative way. And I think it places pressure on Kevin Stefanski and that organization for 2023 to be a-- it's a pivotal season. You can't replicate--
JORI EPSTEIN: Right.
CHARLES ROBINSON: I think the struggles last year down the stretch, fine. You can explain that away for what it was. Now it's different. He's had an offseason. He's been in the offseason passing program. They brought back Josh Dobbs as the backup quarterback, who's going to be the most suited quarterback to help Deshaun Watson, prepare him, work with him in the classroom the way you want that quarterback-backup relationship to function.
They're even-- Stefanski said Deshaun Watson is going to have more ability to impact the offense, take more control of the offense this season. So I think it's vitally important for the Browns at this stage. They have to showcase why Deshaun Watson got the trade package he did, why he got the money that he did.
JORI EPSTEIN: I think it's super interesting. I think schematically, physically, all these things, Deshaun Watson will now have been back in this building for over a year. He'll have the pieces. He'll know what he's working with. He won't have the suspension looming over him. It seems like the court stuff is kind of put to the side and not really actively impacting his day-to-day life. And so I think it's interesting.
I think also, hopefully, he'll have been in therapy for at least a year by that point. And so that's interesting, what it'll do to him psychologically. And I think that we will know a lot this year in terms of how much can he come back to the player he was on the field. I don't think that, based off his skill set, his acclimation to the organization, and his last few years that we're going to necessarily see the best Deshaun Watson going forward this year.
But I do think, like you said, what he can do this year after last year is really important. Because they kind of knew last year was just a matter of shaking off the rust, getting through it. And it was almost like everything you go through now will make it so you don't have to go through that in 2023. And they accept that.
Now it's not like they're not trying to win. Because if you can win, you can get the confidence, and you can establish chemistry with your receivers, and understand what your guys are doing up front, then all of that helps you for 2023. But it was always a looking-ahead bit.