Browns Make Final Call on Starting QB After Deshaun Watson Injury

Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski is replacing Deshaun Watson with rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson.

Getty Images Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski is replacing Deshaun Watson with rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson.

The Cleveland Browns will turn to rookie quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson on Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers following the news that Deshaun Watson’s season is over.

With Thompson-Robinson getting the starting nod, PJ Walker will serve as the backup. Walker started the majority of the games when Watson was sidelined with a rotator cuff strain but struggled with turnovers.

“Every week you’re trying to make the best decisions you can,” Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski said while announcing the move. “Want to give him a full week where he knows he’s the starter.”

Thompson-Robinson started one game with Watson out and it wasn’t pretty. He tossed three interceptions against the Baltimore Ravens during a 28-3 loss, managing just 121 yards.

However, that start came on short notice, with the Browns ruling out Watson with a shoulder injury following his morning warmup. The rookie — who initially won the No. 2 job after the preseason —  told that he has been able to progress since then, despite being on the sideline.

“Night and day,” Thompson-Robinson told Wednesday, November 1. “It’ll be a clear difference. Like I said, I finally got my feet wet. I know what to do. I know what to study when I go out there. When I’m on the sidelines, I know exactly where P.J.’s supposed to go with the ball. I know if PJ doesn’t go in the right spot with the ball and I’m able to give him that feedback and things like that. And so like I said, just seeing how guys have gravitated towards me and asking me for feedback lets me know that I’m on the right track with how I’m progressing stuff.”

Browns Laud Deshaun Watson for Toughness After Injury

The Browns announced on Wednesday that Watson will need season-ending surgery on his shoulder. Watson suffered a broken bone in his right throwing shoulder against the Ravens. He sought multiple opinions to try to stay on the field this season but it was clear he could damage the shoulder worse if he continued to play.

The team said Watson suffered the shoulder injury in the first half against the Ravens, in addition to a high ankle sprain. Watson went a perfect 14-of-14 in the second half and the Browns won 33-31 in comeback fashion.

“One of the things I think about Sunday was how it was a testament to his physical and mental toughness,” Browns GM Andrew Berry said. “And one of the things we’ve learned in talking to doctors … usually that injury restricts the movement where they can’t throw. For Deshaun to play 2 1/2 quarters … it’s a display of physical and mental toughness on his part.”

Browns QB Deshaun Watson Emotional After Injury News

Watson was 5-1 this season as the starting quarterback for the Browns and was coming off the defining performance of his career in Cleveland. He finished the year with 1,115 yards, seven touchdowns and four interceptions.

The Browns have been very complimentary of Watson’s leadership ability. He plans to help guide the team, despite not being able to get on the field.

“It’s very tough,” Watson said. “Hurt about it, but I’m going to make sure I keep my head above water and make sure I stay in touch with all the guys and support them as much as I possibly can and attack this rehab process after surgery and make sure that I’m doing whatever I can to be beneficial for the team while not actually being on the field with them and also prepping for the next year.”

The Browns are 6-3 and still have a shot at a playoff berth if they can ride their stellar defense and get just enough out of their patchwork offense. Watson joins running back Nick Chubb and right tackle Jack Conklin as other notable starters who have been lost for the year.

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