In 2023, the Cleveland Browns are depending on QB Deshaun Watson, a revamped offense, new defensive coordinator (and talent on the line) and a new special teams coordinator. Outside of injuries, preseason football is mostly meaningless for this year’s team.
For the future and the players on the roster bubble, that statement couldn’t be further from the truth. That a few of the Browns rookies are looking really good, starting with OL Dawand Jones, is a bonus for the future. Drafted rookies will have a couple of seasons to prove themselves, most likely, while some bubble players could be in their final training camp ever.
For QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson, training camp is about proving he can be Watson’s long-term backup and a capable spot starter. Being named the starter for the team’s third preseason game is a good sign of that future coming to fruition. Doug Farrar from USA Today’s Touchdown Wire has DTR as one of his winners from Week 1 of the preseason:
I always liked Dorian Thompson-Robinson when he was UCLA’s quarterback, and I like him even more now that he’s got two preseason games with the Browns. Thompson-Robinson has always been capable of making explosive plays with his arm and his feet, and based on that preseason action, I think he’s cleaned up his process in tight-window throws, especially in red-zone situations.
Thompson-Robinson also played well in the first preseason game, the Hall of Fame game, going 8 for 11 for 82 yards and one touchdown. He also ran for 36 yards on six carries.
In the same article, Kyle Madson notes that WR Austin Watkins really caught his eye:
Another player who jumped out was Browns wide receiver Austin Watkins. Holy smokes. His last three professional football teams before Cleveland were the Saskatchewan Roughriders, the Memphis Showboats and the Birmingham Stallions. He’s 6-3, 210 and posted a light six catches for 71 yards on eight targets in their loss to Washington. Consistency is key for some of these lesser-known players and he was just really good at finding space and creating separation – two things that will open the coaching staff’s eyes when they’re evaluating the tape.
Watkins added two receptions for 35 yards and the game-winning touchdown in the Hall of Fame game.
DTR is pretty much locked into his roster spot while Watkins looks to fight for a final spot in a crowded wide receiver room. As noted, the receiver’s size and nuanced ability in his routes could greatly help him.
Add Jones’ performance and the Browns have really gotten good looks from some unexpected places so far in preseason.