TE Jordan Akins happy to be reunited with former QB Deshaun Watson with Cleveland Browns
BEREA — Jordan Akins knows firsthand what it looks like to see a Pro Bowl version of Deshaun Watson.
What the tight end saw last Dec. 4 when Watson returned from an 11-game suspension against the Houston Texans was not that at all.
"He definitely was rusty," Akins said Wednesday. "He had to get back in his rhythm. His rhythm was off. I could tell that his footwork wasn't where it should be. It wasn't the typical Deshaun. The typical Deshaun beats adversity. That's exactly what he faced, and he came back and did his job."
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That was Watson's debut for the Browns, a 27-13 win in which the quarterback was just 12-of-22 passing for 131 yards with an interception. That it came against his former team, the Texans, gave Akins a front-row seat.
Now, Akins will have a front-row seat to every one of Watson's games. The tight end signed as a free agent with the Browns after having spent five seasons in Houston.
One of the biggest reasons for choosing Cleveland? A chance to get back to together with his old quarterback.
"It's just the chemistry that we had," Akins said. "I want to pick up where we left off in Houston. The team camaraderie, me and Deshaun, we had great chemistry. I like the way he plays the game. The play's always alive when he's on the field. I love to play with a quarterback like that."
Akins and Watson were teammates from when the tight end was selected in the third round of the 2018 draft right up until the quarterback was traded to the Browns on March 18, 2022. The last season they were together, in 2021, Watson didn't play due to a combination of a dispute with the front office over a trade demand and the fallout from the two dozen women alleging sexual assault and sexual misconduct during massage appointments.
However, from 2018 through 2020, Akins was among Watson's top targets. The tight end was targeted by him specifically 129 times and that produced 90 catches for 1,046 yards and three touchdowns.
"Akins, he's a play maker," Watson said in April. "He's a guy that played a lot of ball, made some big plays down in Houston when I was there and then even last year. So having his addition into an already stout tight end group with Chief (David Njoku) and Harrison (Bryant) and Zaire (Mitchell-Paden), that's a great room to be around and a great opportunity for them to be able to take their room and that position to a whole other level for this offense."
Akins is one of several tight ends Watson has made a habit of zeroing in on since coming into the league himself in 2017, especially in the red zone. Of his 104 touchdown passes while in Houston, 21 were thrown to a tight end.
Last year in six games, 26 of his 99 completions (26.3%) and 235 of his 1,102 passing yards (21.3%) went to tight ends. Njoku, the Browns' No. 1 tight end, was targeted 28 times by Watson with 17 catches for 164 yards and two touchdowns.
"I think it's just his awareness and his belief in his tight ends," Akins said. "He trusts us as we trust him. Like I said, the play's never dead with Deshaun. A big body, sometimes it's easier to bump and get open in the red zone. When we do, Deshaun knows how to find us."
Akins was running as the No. 1 tight end during Wednesday's open voluntary offseason team activities with Njoku not in attendance. He was one of several Browns newcomers working with the starting group due to either absences (Njoku) or players being held out of drills (Amari Cooper).
That group also included receivers Elijah Moore and Marquise Goodwin. The former came to the Browns in a March 22 trade with the New York Jets, while the latter signed as a free agent on March 24.
All of those pass catchers have been spending time trying to get on the same page with Watson, knowing full well the way the quarterback performs this season likely will determine their team's success. Akins knows there remains an adjustment period for new players and a new team and new pass catchers to a new quarterback.
"We're trying to overcome that right now," Akins said. "That's what OTAs for, trying to get the rhythm down. We're trying to get the way he plays the game. Luckily I've been with him for three years, so I kind of know how to maneuver when he makes certain moves.
"But as a team I think we'll be fine. Like I said, Deshaun, he will find the open guy. We will make plays for him."
Chris Easterling can be reached at email@example.com. Read more about the Browns at www.beaconjournal.com/sports/browns. Follow him on Twitter at @ceasterlingABJ.
This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Jordan Akins glad to be reunited with Deshaun Watson with Browns