Browns QB Deshaun Watson May Be Without Top Weapon Against Bengals

Deshaun Watson

Getty Images Deshaun Watson of the Cleveland Browns.

Deshaun Watson is looking to get on track after a rust-filled debut with the Cleveland Browns and there’s a chance he’ll have to do it without his top weapon Amari Cooper.

Cooper is dealing with a hip injury he suffered in practice on Thursday and the Browns dubbed him questionable for the matchup with the Bengals on Sunday. It’d be a huge hole for Cleveland if he’s unable to go. Cooper leads the team in every major receiving category, notching 61 catches for 832 yards and seven touchdowns.

Being unable to practice on Friday ahead of a game has been a bad signal for Browns players recently. However, Cooper was asked by ESPN’s Jake Trotter if he’d be OK for the matchup and the veteran pass-catcher replied, “should be.”

That being said, not having Cooper on the practice field is tough for the Browns, who are trying to build the relationship between Watson and his top option in the passing game. Cooper caught four balls for 40 yards in Watson’s debut against the Texans.

“Just timing. Obviously, that is something that you really want to get down pat that relationship between the quarterback and receiver because we all run at different tempos, different stride lengths and stuff like that,” Cooper said on December 8. “The more we can do to get him acclimated to each of our stride lengths in terms of breaking out of a route and stuff like that, I think that is No. 1.”

Watson Eager to Put Rusty Debut Behind Him

Against the Texans, Watson went 12 of 22 for 131 yards with no touchdowns and one interception, which came in the end zone. He posted a QB rating of 53.4, which was the worst of his career.

It was his first game in 700 days and he admitted the rust from being out of live action for so long was real.

“I would just say I felt every single one of those 700 days, honestly,” Watson said after the game. “However long I’ve been out, I felt every single one of those days. Getting back in shape and everything is definitely what I needed today.”

Watson’s resume as a franchise quarterback is well-documented, which is why the Browns went all-in on a trade for him this offseason. He led the league in passing in 2020 and is a three-time Pro Bowl selection. Watson expects his play to improve this week after a first run-through with the Browns.

“I was able to get the feel of the game, the speed of the game, how defenses adjust and how we are going to be able to adjust. At the same time, it was my first time in a live action with Kevin (Stefanski),” Watson said on December 8. “He has to feel how I feel, I have to feel how he feels and we have to be able to work on the same page and see the same thing through the same lenses. It was fun to be out there.”

Browns Still Have Confidence in Anthony Schwartz

The Browns did lose another piece of the passing game this week in Anthony Schwartz, who was placed on injured reserve after suffering a concussion against the Texans. Schwartz hasn’t been the contribution the team imagined he would be when they selected him in the third round of the 2021 draft but he was coming along.

“I really feel for Anthony because I do believe Anthony has done everything we have asked him to do. He has worked extremely hard. He was doing some real positive things on the field,” pass game coordinator/wide receivers coach Chad O’Shea said. “Really, he is a dependable guy and we wish him the very best in trying to get back with us.”

The Browns claimed former Tampa Bay Buccaneers receiver Jaelon Darden with Schwartz heading to the IR. Darden was a fourth-round pick of the Bucs in 2021 but didn’t last long in Tampa Bay. He has appeared in 21 games, recording eight receptions for 69 yards. He has also returned 50 punts for a 9.4 average and 21 kickoffs for a 20.3 average.

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