Watson starts first game in 583 days, struggles against Jaguars defense

Juston Lewis
Florida Times-Union
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For the first time in 583 days, Deshaun Watson played in an NFL contest. Watson took his first preseason snap under center to a chorus of booing fans inside TIAA Bank Stadium as the Jaguars fell to the Browns 24-14.

The trend followed every time he took a snap as the Browns started three-and-out and with starting center Nick Harris being carted off on the second play.

Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson #4 warms up before a preseason NFL scrimmage game Friday, Aug. 12, 2022 at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville. [Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union]

It was a night to forget for Watson as he finished the game 1 for 5 passing for seven yards and looked like a player who hadn’t played in an NFL contest in nearly 600 days.

Watson didn’t play in his final season as a Houston Texan in 2021 and likely won’t start the regular season for the Browns as an appeal decision is made for his six-game suspension.

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“I think it was important for him to get out there, in a game setting, under the lights with new teammates and go operate,” Browns’ head coach Kevin Stefanski said after the game. “It wasn’t going to be perfect and even if it was perfect, you can’t overreact to that either. I think it was all part of the progression for him.”

The last time Watson played in a game, he lost against the Titans on a late field goal. He was 28 for 39 for 365 yards and three touchdowns with one interception in that contest.

Though just a preseason showing, Watson looked far from the caliber player that put up those numbers. He looked out of sync with his offense and rusty.

“I think he probably wants some throws back, obviously playing football for the first time in a while.” Stefanski said. “I thought it was important to get out there with his teammates, in this scheme. Just hearing a different voice in the helmet. Those type of things. I’m sure he had the butterflies and the jitters early. I think he understands there’s work to do.”

The Browns did not make Watson available for a postgame press conference. He did have an exclusive interview with Aditi Kinkhabwala of NFL Network before he took the field for the first time in more than a year and a half.

In the interview he offered his first public apology to the women he “impacted” with his actions.

He also cited how he wasn’t sure when the next time he would be able to take the field, so he wanted to take full advantage of the opportunity the preseason game in Jacksonville presented for him.

Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) warms up on the field ahead of the start of the game against the Jaguars Friday. The Jacksonville Jaguars hosted the Cleveland Browns at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville, Florida Friday, August 12, 2022 for the first home preseason game of the season. [Bob Self/Florida Times-Union]

“Each and every snap, I want to make sure I cherish that because I’m not sure when the next time I’ll be able to get out there with those guys,” Watson said in the video released via the Browns social media on Friday evening. Through three series, there wasn’t much to be cherished from his performance.

Unlike Watson, former Jaguars’ and current Browns’ quarterback Josh Dobbs had a strong showing in the preseason game. Dobbs passed for 108 yards on 10 of 13 attempts and a touchdown.

The Browns elected to rest backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett in anticipation of him starting Week 1 according to Stefanski.

Juston Lewis is a sports reporter for the Florida Times-Union. You can follow him on Twitter at @JustonLewis_.

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