Deshaun Watson Talks Preseason Opener, Shaking Rust, And Receiver Impact

New York Jets v Cleveland Browns

CANTON, OHIO - AUGUST 03: Deshaun Watson #4 of the Cleveland Browns celebrates a 16-yard touchdown run by Demetric Felton Jr. during the second half of the 2023 Pro Hall of Fame Game against the New York Jets at Tom Benson Hall Of Fame Stadium on August 3, 2023 in Canton, Ohio.Photo: Nick Cammett / Getty Images Sport / Getty Images

What’s the game plan for you on Friday? How much are you going to play? 

“I’m not even sure. I just know I’m starting it off and we’ll see – the biggest thing is really just getting operational, the feel of the pregame and starting off the game and just kind of get myself back in routine to get ready for the season.”

How important are these reps just to kind of, like you said, get yourself going? 

“It’s everything. You just got to get that routine again. You just got to start fresh, get back to the basics of how you get yourself prepared for the game. Mentally, physically, and just really just operational for the team so we can go out there and be sharp.”

You had success in the rain the other day. Is that your best practice? 

“I mean, it could be, but I feel like every day is a learning lesson for myself, regardless if it was good, if it wasn’t good. I always try to look and going into film with the mindset that everything is not always great, and everything is not always bad. It’s always right in the middle. So there was a lot of success on the field that we had the other day in the rain, but also there were some little small things that we got to clean up too.”

Because there’s such a long way to go for the regular season opener here. Just how much preseason work do you feel that you need so that you’re ready for September 10? 

“I’m not even sure, really. Honestly. I think the biggest thing is really each and every day is an opportunity for myself to get myself ready for September 10. So practices, meetings, walk through, preseason games, whatever Coach (Kevin) Stefanski and the staff want me and the other guys to do, we’re going to be able to go out there and try to operate and be sharp and be safe as possible so we can get ready for September 10.”

In a perfect world, how much would you like to play on Friday night? 

“It doesn’t even matter to me. I’m a competitor. So however long he wants us to play, I’m going to go out there and compete for that length of time and we see what happens.”

It’s been a long time since fans have seen you play in a game. What should they expect? 

“Really just don’t expect anything, really. I mean, the biggest thing is just really going out there with an open mind. Like I said, it’s still very basic on what we will show, and what we won’t show. The biggest thing is just operational. Just going out there to compete and just kind of get ourselves ready for that September 10.”

What should they expect from you and not just the team? 

“Same thing, like I said, just operational. Just going out there to be sharp and really just take charge of the offense.”

When pitchers go into spring training, they often look to work on something. Are you looking to work on something when you go out there on Friday, specifically that maybe you’ve been tinkering with this offseason, preseason? 

“Just continue to build a command of this offense. And operational, just really just taking charge of what we need to do to have that success each and every play.”

You’ve lost a couple of receivers this training camp. What do you think of that? Number 80, Watkins. What do you think of him? 

“Watkins, that’s a good guy. He played in – I can’t remember, the USFL. So that was cool to be able to watch some of his tape and then have him come in and help this team. He played good in the Hall of Fame game. He just got into town, I think the last week, or the last couple of days with Greenbrier. So he had to learn fast. But for him to be able to come out and be productive for this team and this offense, he’s definitely been great. So he’s going to keep going, and he asks a lot of questions. He’s a guy that wants to learn and try to help the team.”

We see Elijah Moore everywhere. Seems like there isn’t anything he can’t do. Just from your perspective, what type of an impact and weapon is he and do you envision within this offense? 

“Yeah, I mean, he’s a big impact. He can do it all. He’s very versatile. He can do outside, inside, whatever we ask him to do. He can do whatever. He goes full speed. He never complains. He just tries to be perfect and whatever he can do to be productive for this offense and his team and for himself. So, he’s definitely going to help this offense and be great for it.”

You mentioned getting ready for September 10. Have you had much time to start looking at all at Cincinnati? I know it’s pretty early. 

“Yeah, I just kind of look all over the whole league. Right now, we’re just focusing on the Cleveland Browns. Of course, you skim a little bit on Cincinnati and what they’re doing and try to watch the last previous games that we played against them and their scheme and things like that. But with the first game, it’s kind of hard. You just try to take the base of what that defensive coordinator usually comes out with the first game, and then you try to adjust the first half or so and go from there.”

Does that debut last year in Jacksonville feel like a long time ago? 

“Yeah, it’s like a blur to be honest.”

So, it was a challenge for you to kind of hit the ground running last year, talked about knocking off all that rust and what have you. In those six games that you played, when you went back and reviewed those, what stood out to you that you wish had gone differently, that you could have done better? 

“Nothing. I mean, honestly, it went the way it was going to go and it should have went. Went three and three. There are some opportunities that overall, not just myself, but the whole team, we missed out on. A lot of guys banged up, but we just take it and move forward. And of course, over the offseason you learn from it, but once spring ball and the training camp starts, you kind of put 2022 behind us and focus on the new year. There are so many potential opportunities for us and myself, and we want to take advantage of them.”

Deshaun, have you ever practiced against a defense this good from front to back, and how much are they helping you get ready for the season? 

“Yeah, this defense is very intense, very sharp, very skilled coach, very well, very disciplined. From the DBs, who are playing very tight coverage on the receivers. So there’s got to be tight types of throws inside the windows. Got the linebackers that’s smart with A-Walk (Anthony Walker) and J-O-K (Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah) and Jordan (Kunaszyk) and all the other guys. And you got the front that’s very aggressive and very fast and strong and big. So, it’s putting us to the test, and it’s going to help us in the long run. So I’m glad to be able to go back and forth and compete, and we want to do the same for them, too.”

Do you look at Monday’s practice in the red zone as a breakthrough or just a good day? 

“It’s a good day. You got to decide days. You can’t think you have it all and you never have it all. So that’s the mentality we have, we’re always trying to get better. Regardless if went 100% in every drill period, we can’t get ourselves too comfortable. We got to continue to go because every period, every drive, every play is a new play. So we just got to make sure we focus on that play, be still in the moment and move forward from there.”

Do you feel like there’s any rust left from that long layoff or at this point, is that all gone now? 

“I have no idea. Like I said, it’s just really once we get out there and play, we’ll see what happens and go from there.”

Given the fact that you guys have joint practices coming up against the Eagles, was there a thought on just, like you sitting this one out?

“I’m not even sure. Yeah, we came in this week and he listed off how the time, kind of plays are going to go, who was going to start the game off and my name was called, so I was ready to go. I’m not sure what kind of debate or talk they had up there.”

Deshaun, it was an adjustment for the offensive line getting used to you because you extend plays as well as you do. How have you seen that improve during training camp here? 

“It’s been great. I just try to just play off them, and I let the guys know that you block your assignment and I just make you right. And sometimes the defense gets it, sometimes they don’t. That’s part of the game, that’s part of football. But we’ve been able to adjust to each other, and they know exactly where I’m going to set up and how I’m going to react in certain situations. So, it’s been good for us.”

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