Deshaun Watson is the Cleveland Browns starting quarterback. We all know this. 2023 will be his first full season at the helm as he played just six games last year after serving an 11-game suspension. We all know this as well.
But every NFL team needs a capable backup. You have to. Players get hurt all the time. And with 300-pound+ dudes trying to pancake the quarterback, the chance of playing all 17 games is a far-fetched dream.
Remember when Joe Montana’s backup was Steve Young? Jeff Hostetler was the Number 2 signal-caller behind Phil Simms? Even Baker Mayfield had Case Keenum behind him who had 62 NFL starts on his resume.
It’s a shame Jacoby Brissett didn’t stick around as next year’s veteran presence. But since he got a good taste of what a starting QB goes through each week, he deserved to go someplace that would give him an opportunity to start once again.
Last year in preseason, backup Josh Dobbs played well and was Brissett’s backup. Once Watson was activated, Dobbs became expendable. He then was a member of the Detroit Lions and Tennessee Titans practice squad and even had two starts with the Titans. Going into this year, the Browns remembered his successful stint and re-signed him. He will compete with youngster Kellen Mond for the backup position.
The question is: are either of these guys quality backups? Can they come in and take control of games and add to the win column until Watson returns if he does become injured?
For Dobbs, both of the Tennessee starts were losses. In fact, in Week 18, the Titans needed a win to clinch a playoff spot. He was a good game manager and went 20 for 29 attempts for 179 yards with a touchdown and a pick as they led for most of the contest. But his fumble which was returned for a score late in the game killed their chances and ended their season.
Those two Tennessee starts are Dobbs’ only NFL starts. He has thrown a total of 85 passes in actual NFL games with 50 completions, two touchdowns with three interceptions. Mond has played in one NFL game with three passes attempted.
These two men represent who will take the reins in case Watson cannot.
With this in mind, GM Andrew Berry selected QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson of UCLA in the fifth round of this year’s NFL draft with pick #140. The idea is for Thompson-Robinson to learn from the other signal callers for a year, and then be ready to become Watson’s primary backup beginning in 2024.
Can he? Better yet, who is he?
Thompson-Robinson (6’-2”, 205 pounds) grew up in Las Vegas and attended Bishop Gorman High School.
He didn’t even start until his senior year. There was a sensational QB ahead of him named Tate Martell. For three high school seasons, all Thompson-Robinson could do was wait. He played some wide receiver, was inserted when the score was out of reach, and even considered transferring to a new school that might need his talent.
Instead of complaining, he changed positions and played wide receiver which was a need position in the lineup. He ended that season with 22 receptions for 397 yards and eight touchdowns. This act of selflessness cemented the respect he garnered from his teammates.
Being the future quarterback yet switching to the receiver position is what Thompson-Robinson is all about as far as serving the needs of his team. He told the Las Vegas Sun:
“For me, it’s always been about my boys and doing anything to help the team win.”
Instead of whining or relocating, he waited his turn. When he finally took over as the starting quarterback in his final year, he was more than prepared. A smart kid, he could run the 40 in 4.79 and was strong for his position being able to bench 270 and squat 370.
Despite only playing one season as the starter, he made the most of it. He threw 256 passes with 176 completions for 3,275 yards, an astounding 38 touchdowns with only three interceptions.
As a mobile triple-threat athlete, he also ran for 426 yards with an additional seven scores.
Bishop Gorman is nationally known for its football dominance. They are a Nevada Class 4-A powerhouse. The school’s football squad won the state championship from 2009 to 2018. Thompson-Robinson played on the state champions every season he played football. At the conclusion of his senior year, Gorman had won 54 straight games. Thompson-Robinson was named the conference Player of the Year.
Thompson-Robinson went to high school with the Browns’ first pick in this draft Cedric Tillman.
Mobility at the quarterback position was being weaponized more efficiently with pass-happy offenses. These schools all wanted a running gunslinger.
His high school football coach was hired as the head coach at UNLV and offered to Thompson-Robinson. Instead, he chose UCLA and was looked at as their quarterback savior going forward.
#UCLA Commit 4⭐️ QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson 6-2/194 is an exciting prospect with out standing potential. With growth and development he could be a special player. So what can he do? Check out my answer. #CFB #Devy pic.twitter.com/7f3YTuTEjx— Matt Caraccio (@Matty_S2S) January 13, 2018
Although he was not the starter in his freshman season he did see game action in 10 games and eventually started seven. He passed for 1,311 yards and attempted 194 passes with seven touchdowns and four interceptions and a QBR rating of 122.3. By his sophomore year he was the starter and threw 362 passes with 216 completions for 2,701 yards, tossed 21 touchdowns, and had twelve interceptions. In 2020 he opened the season throwing for 303 yards and four touchdowns in a win over Colorado. However, the season was cut short by the pandemic and UCLA only played five games.
Having an extra season, in his final two seasons he tossed for 5,578 yards on 665 attempts with 542 completions, 48 touchdowns against 16 interceptions. As a runner, his career stats include 1,826 rushing yards with a 3.9 average per carry and scored 28 touchdowns.
Over three full seasons as the UCLA starter, his completion percentage improved climbed from 57% to 67%. His touchdown to interception ratio also improved.
As a dynamic runner that could gain valuable yardage in the open field, Thompson-Robinson finished his career at UCLA as the school’s all-time leader in total offense with 12,536 total yards and was the first player in school history to ever record over 12,000 total yards. He is now the all-time school leader in completions with 860, total touchdowns (116), and total touchdown passes (88). As a runner he finished his college career with 1,826 rushing yards and 28 rushing touchdowns.
He explained to Yahoo! Sports what it meant to play in head coach Chip Kelly’s offense while at UCLA:
“I’ve been running an NFL system for quite some time now. Coach Kelly has been able to add on more stuff to my plate to make sure I’m getting as prepared as I can for the next level, and I thank him a bunch for that. I think I’m extremely prepared, just with the offense I ran, the responsibility I had in the offense. Then, just my head coach trusting in me. I think that’s the biggest part for a quarterback, gaining your coaches’ and players’ trust. For me to be able to do that, I think, is huge.”
At the end of the season, Thompson-Robinson was invited to play in the East-West Shrine Bowl at Allegiant Stadium in his hometown of Las Vegas. The Shrine Game involves top college prospects across the country who play in front of NFL scouts and coaches.
His Twitter handle is @DoriansTweets.
Thompson-Robinson stated this after accepting his invitation to the Shrine Bowl:
“To be back here playing football, where I played my best football in my career, is pretty cool.”
At this time, he was known as a student of the game who had two solid seasons in his final years at UCLA. The only question was, how would scouts rank him and where would he be drafted? He came into the draft as an experienced quarterback who had plenty of success in college over his career; especially being a five-year starter who was very durable and steadily improved over the course of his career.
A scouting report on The Draft Network:
“Thompson-Robinson has just average poise in the pocket and rather than staying calm and stepping up in the pocket when bullets are flying, he will become erratic and look to escape the pocket. Thompson-Robinson will oftentimes scramble and leave the pocket early rather than standing tall and stepping up to deliver an accurate pass down the field. Thompson-Robinson struggles to throw the ball outside the hashes and is often a tick late even though he does have the requisite velocity to get the job done. He takes a ton of sacks as he lacks the natural feel of when pressure is coming. His inconsistency to throw with touch and timing is frustrating as he does have flashes of doing so at a high level.”
In 2022 he was named Honorable Mention All-Pac-12 and was also was a semifinalist for the Davey O’Brien Award.
On Day 3 the phone rang
On the draft site WalterFootball.com, they ranked Thompson-Robinson as the 11th-best QB prospect this year. Which is close enough since he was the 10th QB taken right behind Clayton Tune of the University of Houston one pick earlier.
His allure was his five-year experience in college with an exciting skill set that included a quarterback who was able to gain an enormous amount of yardage with his legs. In addition, in 2022 he finished the season ranked sixth in the nation in completion percentage at 69.6%.
He finally heard his name called in the fifth round. While he was not getting the attention of many other quarterbacks in the draft it was clear he had plenty of upside and was an exciting player who could gain yardage with his legs as well as his arm.
Here’s a glimpse at @Browns Quarterback @DoriansTweets getting a surprise welcome to the league by one of his favorite players during @NFLPA #RookiePremiere #sportsmarketing #thejourneycontinues pic.twitter.com/kqm6LxAhlM— Uche Anyanwu (@uch_anyanwu) May 19, 2023
Thompson-Robinson it’s definitely viewed as a developmental player who can be groomed for a season or two as Deshaun Watson’s backup who possesses a similar skill set. He is definitely viewed as an insurance policy that can develop.
After the draft was completed, Berry stated this about his new QB:
“Dorian, we love his playmaking ability. He’s got a strong arm. He’s really dangerous off-schedule. He’s had a lot of starts at UCLA, and the other thing that stands out is he is very, very tough and very, very competitive.”
There are certain traits that stand out about Thompson-Robinson. He is a confident kid who is poised. As the most important player on the field, he has the commitment to gain his teammate’s respect.
Thompson-Robinson also has a firm command of the intangible qualities the NFL looks for in a quarterback. There will be a seasoning period which hopefully he can study and watch for a full season before being inserted into live action. He needs time to grow and develop.
Before going into this year’s draft, Berry stated every player was being selected for their development which will be used in 2024 or later. Thompson-Robinson arrives as a five-year starter with below-average size, decent mobility, and a slow but deliberate continuum of improvement at the quarterback position,
For Thompson-Robinson, time is on his side.
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