CLEVELAND, Ohio (92.3 The Fan) – The Browns went on summer vacation Thursday afternoon.
Training camp is just under six weeks away.
Here are our Top Takeaways from the offseason program before we head on our own summer vacation.
1. It feels like the fate of the Browns 2022 season is in the NFL’s hands with Deshaun Watson facing potential discipline in the wake of the league’s investigation into claims he was inappropriate during massage therapy sessions. So far 24 women have filed lawsuits against Watson claiming sexual misconduct by the quarterback. Two more suits are expected to be filed to raise the total to 26 and there is a chance more could follow. The narrative seems to be shifting from Watson getting a few games to the NFLPA preparing to defend Watson against significant punishment.
2. Watson reiterated his innocence from any allegations of force, assault or harassment this week, but the one thing he has yet to say is that he had never asked any of the therapists for sexual favors of any kind which is at the heart of the accusations made in these lawsuits. Watson and his legal team have admitted to some sexual contact occurring with a few of the therapists and that it was consensual while also claiming he was strictly looking for professional massage therapy – from at least 66 women per a New York Times report.
3. The NFL is in a difficult position considering the constant drip of Watson news – be it from new court filings, deposition leaks or more allegations coming to light – when it comes to potential discipline. Assuming they do suspend him, the NFL risks being perceived as going too soft on Watson considering the allegations and volume of them or being too premature should more allegations surface after a punishment is handed down.
4. The NFL office is known for their Friday of a holiday weekend news dumps. Will Watson be their next come July 1?
5. Watson was the missing piece in the Browns’ eyes, hence why the Haslams and Andrew Berry put their reputation on the line by trading for and then giving him $230 million fully guaranteed. If Watson is not allowed to play this year, which some national pundits are beginning to speculate, it’s hard not to feel like the Browns season could be flushed down the drain before it even begins.
6. While Kevin Stefanski and his staff got Watson as many reps as possible these last nine weeks, they won’t hesitate to pivot come training camp to get backup Jacoby Brissett ready for Week 1 should Watson be suspended. Brissett is a professional backup with 37 NFL starts under his belt and there is little doubt within the organization he will be able to prepare and perform should he be called upon.
7. Denzel Ward’s foot injury during the final practice of minicamp put a damper on things. Ward, who just got a five-year, $100.5 million extension earlier this offseason, left the stadium in a walking boot and there’s a chance he may have broken a bone in his left foot leaving his availability for the start of camp up in the air.
8. We can confidently tell you that there is nothing wrong with the right foot of Cade York. The fourth-round pick can boom footballs through the uprights from 50-plus – with ease. Practice kicks are one thing, game kicks are a different animal, but the early returns are in, and it looks like the kicking game has been upgraded.
9. Another rookie – David Bell – has also stood out in a positive way. Bell caught everything and anything thrown in his direction during OTAs and minicamps. A cynic might simply say the kid is doing his job, but if we had a dollar for every drafted receiver by the Browns over the years that consistently put footballs on the ground during practices, we’d be rich.
10. Sticking with the receivers, the Browns are giving their kids a chance to grow behind Amari Cooper. Anthony Schwartz, Donovan Peoples-Jones and Bell got plenty of work and the only way to let them develop is to give them reps.
11. Cooper brings more than just Pro Bowl experience to the Browns. The veteran on numerous occasions could be seen chatting with the younger receivers and coaching them up. Bell expressed his appreciation this week for the guidance and Cooper praised the rookie’s willingness to listen and adjust on the fly.
12. Because players have yet to put on the pads and contact has not been allowed through the spring, there really isn’t much to glean from the new interior of the defensive line other than the veteran players are getting the first opportunity to win playing time. Defensive tackle will be the top position battle to watch come training camp.
13. Running back will be another fascinating group to watch during training camp. They have an overabundance of depth with Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, D’Ernest Johnson, Demetric Felton and rookie Jerome Ford. They might not be able to keep them all, but these things have a way of always working themselves out.
14. The intensity of the offseason program has been dialed back significantly. That’s not a Browns thing, that’s an NFL thing, which is why it’s important to keep snap judgements to a minimum.
15. Stefanski has invested a lot of time and energy this offseason in team bonding – something the 2021 team lacked as internal fissures within the locker room are now public knowledge. Stefanski’s basketball hoop was a hit at the facility. Seeing how much his players loved shooting hoops, he took them over to the Cavs facility in Independence during OTAs. He used a minicamp day to bus the team to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton. Watson’s Bahamas trip and Myles Garrett taking his guys to South Beach made headlines too. Will a closer-knit team win?
16. Excusing Baker Mayfield from minicamp was the right move. Sure, there’s something to be said for being professional and showing up to work, but Mayfield will never play another down for the Browns again so there was no need to force him to come to the facility and pretend to be the least bit interested or invested in what was going on. The Browns have enough of a headache with their new starting quarterback right now and having Mayfield around was another headache they didn’t need. Now about trading him…
17. See you at training camp July 27 for me, the 30th for you.
18. Most importantly, have a great summer.