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Kevin Stefanski: Deshaun Watson is right where he needs to be with Browns offense

From Bengals WR Ja’Marr Chase to Steelers LB T.J. Watt, Mike Florio and Chris Simms select the strongest players in the AFC North who aren't QBs.

At this point last year, the Browns didn’t know if or how long quarterback Deshaun Watson would be suspended to open the 2022 season.

After trading for the quarterback who hadn’t played since the end of the 2020 season, Cleveland had some time during the offseason program to get Watson acclimated to the building and his teammates. But by the time Watson got on the field in 2022, he never seemed to find a consistent rhythm. He completed 58.2 percent of his passes for 1,102 yards with seven touchdowns and five interceptions.

As the Browns get ready for Year Two with Watson, head coach Kevin Stefanski told reporters last week that he doesn’t think it’s fair to compare the situations between 2022 and 2023.

“I would just tell you he’s done a really nice job throughout this entire offseason of being diligent about understanding [the] playbook, understanding his teammates every single day,” Stefanski said, via Chris Easterling of the Akron Beacon Journal. “There are always going to be things that you want to get back and do a little bit differently. That’s no different than every player at every position, but he’s right where he needs to be.”

The Browns have several more OTA sessions scheduled, which can be an important time for Watson to start building chemistry with new targets like former Jets receiver Elijah Moore.

“As you add new players, and adding Elijah to the mix, you want as a quarterback, all these reps — you take mental notes and you’re thinking about how a player came out of this route, how he came out of that route,” Stefanski said. “Every single rep, whether it’s individual period or it’s in a team period or it’s in a 7-on-7, you’re constantly adding that to the checklist, if you will, so that you get to understand your players, because that’s important. We may run a six-step route, and the six steps that Player A takes are a little bit longer than the six steps that Player B takes.”

The Browns have committed to Watson and will need him to be substantially better in 2023 for the club to have any shot at becoming a contender.