A regular-season game, he said. Specifically, the Sept. 10 opener against the Cincinnati Bengals.
“We will figure out Week 1 in Cleveland Browns Stadium against Cincinnati,” Watson said on the second day of the Browns’ minicamp on June 7. “That’s when I can really, after that game we can see wherever things are going.”
Turns out, it wasn’t Week 1 in Cleveland Browns Stadium against Cincinnati the Browns quarterback needed to see. It was Week 1 — technically, game No. 2 for the Browns — of the preseason in Cleveland Browns Stadium against the Washington Commanders.
Or, more specifically, 12 plays against the Commanders.
“I’m not thinking about no rust,” Watson said after Friday’s 17-15 preseason loss to Washington. “That was last year. I missed ball. I played six games last year, and I had a full offseason, so I’m not thinking about no rust. I’m not using no excuses for no rust or anything like that.”
There was no real reason for Watson to use any excuses in his first action of the preseason. Even after a 70-minute delay due to a storm, anyone looking for evidence of improvement from last season could certainly find it in multiple places.
Watson was 3-for-3 passing for 12 yards, but that was just the tip of the iceberg. Just as impressive was the 20 rushing yards on three attempts, including a 10-yard run on a play in which he initially slipped due to the wet grass.
“You know, so much of the focus for us was just operation and getting us in and out and having a good tempo,” Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said. “So I thought all that was really good. I thought he saw the field really well, made plays with his feet. So he was doing a nice job as an operator, and that was really the goal. Get them through the pregame warm up, get them out of the huddle, get them through the first series there.”
About the only thing that left Watson or the Browns despondent was the fact that, for as good as the drive was, it resulted in nothing. All that work marching 71 yards on 12 plays ended with John Kelly Jr. being tackled for a 4-yard loss on fourth-and-goal from the Commanders 1.
Two plays before that, running back Demetric Felton Jr. was stopped just shy of the goal line after a 6-yard run. While Felton‘s upper torso fell into the end zone, his knee was clearly down before the ball crossed the line.
“I wouldn’t say satisfied because we didn’t get into the end zone, but exactly what the coaching staff wanted us to do,” Watson said. “Operation, get the feel of the game, drive it down and try to get points on the board. Washington did a great job of stopping us once we got down there, but we didn’t, of course, show exactly what we would be doing in goal line offense. But they did a good job of stopping us and wish we could have punched it in.”
The Browns showed off a little bit of everything on the drive. Elijah Moore — who left after the first series with a rib injury, although X-rays were negative — ran the ball once for 18 yards and caught it once for 6 yards after both lining up at receiver and in the backfield.
All of it starting with Watson.
“Everyone is giving me the keys and they are following my lead,” Watson said. “So as far as I go, this offense go and this team go. And the energy, the plays, to really just controlling leading this team is going to go as far as myself. So I got to make sure I’m prepared each and every moment, each and every opportunity and I just got to go out there and do what I do and just be myself.”
The 12 plays Watson played will be the last ones he plays in Cleveland Browns Stadium for the preseason. Of course, no Browns players will play again in the stadium in the preseason, with the last two exhibitions being in Philadelphia and Kansas City.
So that leads Watson back to Sept. 10 in Cleveland Browns Stadium against Cincinnati.
“I’m going to be ready for whenever that time is called Sept. 10, here in the Dawg Pound, and I’m going to be ready to go,” Watson said. “We all will be. All that rust and other stuff, that’s left in 2022. I’m focused on 2023 and making sure I’m ready for Sept. 10.”
Chris Easterling can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more about the Browns at www.beaconjournal.com/sports/browns. Follow him on Twitter at @ceasterlingABJ
This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Deshaun Watson disregarding ‘rust’ after Browns QB’s preseason debut