Though the Hall of Fame Game is technically part of the preseason, most don't treat it as such. The Browns sure didn't, as they had a lengthy list of inactives this past Thursday that featured big names, including both quarterbacks at the top of the depth chart.
In the official Week 1 of the preseason, though, Cleveland is shaking things up. The team announced on Wednesday that Deshaun Watson will be starting against the Commanders, and this is absolutely the right call.
Browns Preseason News
We all saw a rusty version of Watson during the 2022 campaign that was enough to make fans nervous about his megadeal.
After previously leading the league in passing yards the last season he was active, Watson took a major step back through the air during his initial run in Cleveland. Watson managed a meager 1,102 passing yards and 7 touchdowns over six games, and more concerningly, he racked up 5 interceptions as well.
The Pro Bowl playmaker looked nothing like himself, which is understandable considering the substantial time he spent away from the team prior to suiting up. Meanwhile, his pass-catchers were tasked with a drastic adjustment to make late in the year, going from Jacoby Brissett to Watson. The air attack unsurprisingly took a hit under Watson since all of the chemistry was formed with Brissett during his 11 starts.
Now, Watson and his receiving corps can start the year together, which should pay massive dividends. The quarterback should be able to help elevate Amari Cooper and Donovan Peoples-Jones, who both managed to put together stellar 2022 campaigns despite the chaos at QB.
That potential success doesn't come without putting in the preseason work, however, which is why even a drive or two should suffice.
The Browns were also active this offseason surrounding Watson with players who could help him bounce back in 2023. The trade for Elijah Moore was the biggest move, and he's the kind of slot playmaker who could do some serious damage with a QB like Watson. To ensure Moore works out and he doesn't struggle like he did in New York, though, early reps to build a connection are essential.
There's also third-round pick Cedric Tillman and intriguing veteran Marquise Goodwin, both of whom are new faces to this WR room. Both have the talent to emerge as legitimate threats, and they'll benefit from any time they can spend with Watson before Week 1.
Even Watson himself is on board with starting against Washington. He pointed to how the opportunity will help him with "getting a feel for pregame and starting off the game" ahead of Week 1. The 27-year-old also mentioned it'll aid in developing his in-season routine as well, which he couldn't establish for most of 2022 because of his suspension.
Cleveland's offseason moves, which included big spending on defense to fill major holes, point to this franchise's desire to get back to the postseason. It's a big year for everyone from the front office on down as they prepare for the first season of Watson at the helm. The Browns' success will rely on Watson returning to Pro Bowl form, and there's no better way to make sure he's prepared than by getting him and his offense some early live-game reps together before the real thing.
If you want to bet on the Browns at any point this season, you'll want to do it on Bet365. Their $200 new-user promo activates on your first wager of even $1, win or lose! All you have to do to unlock it is sign up through the exclusive Factory of Sadness link below and deposit $10 or more. Cash in now before the offer expires!
Game odds refresh periodically and are subject to change.
21+ and present in OH. Gambling Problem? Call 1-800-GAMBLER