Kellen Mond believes Deshaun Watson will be 'sharp' when he returns for Browns
However, the last month and a half has given the Browns' No. 3 quarterback an opportunity to get to know the person who was acquired to be their franchise quarterback. As Watson gets ready to make his regular-season return Sunday in Houston, Mond believes the quarterback they'll see is the quarterback they remember from the last time he played a regular-season game.
"I don't think when we expect Deshaun to come back, we expect him to be some different person that we don't already know," Mond said Wednesday. "We've seen him around the league and we know what type of plays he can make and obviously he's a great person in the locker room, but he's a great player on the field. So I think everyone's just expecting him to be kind of rusty and things like that, but from what we've all seen, I mean, he's been sharp."
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By the time Mond landed with the Browns in a post-cutdown day signing , Watson had already started his 11-game suspension for violations of the NFL's personal conduct policy. That suspension stems from accusations of sexual assault or sexual misconduct made by more than two dozen women in Texas against Watson while he was still the quarterback of the Texans.
Houston dealt Watson to the Browns on March 18. Now, on Sunday, he'll return to the city he called home for five years, even if the final year was one filled with turmoil from both the accusations and Watson's own trade demands, the latter of which led to him sitting out the entire 2021 season.
That has led many to expect Watson to be walking into a cauldron of emotions when he returns to NRG Stadium on Sunday. Mond, himself a Texas native, isn't doubting there'll be some backlash to Watson, but also doesn't think it will have a major impact on the quarterback.
"Yeah, I mean, I feel like I saw something along the lines on social media," Mond said. "We're going down there to play a game, so we'll be locked in, we'll be in the hotel, we'll be just going straight to the game. So, I mean, a lot of the chatter will probably go right over our heads."
The bigger issue may be the lack of game reps for Watson. The last time he played in a regular-season game was on Jan. 3, 2021, when he quarterbacked the Texans against the Tennessee Titans.
When is the last time Deshaun Watson has played in an NFL regular-season game?
By the time Watson take the field Sunday, it'll be 700 days exactly since that game. That's a long time for anyone to have not played a regular-season NFL game.
Watson did play three series in the preseason opener in Jacksonville. However, many of the Browns' other key offensive starters — receiver Amari Cooper, running back Nick Chubb, offensive linemen Joel Bitonio, Wyatt Teller and Jack Conklin — did not play in the game.
"I would say it would be pretty hard," Mond said. "I felt, if you take almost two years off, it could be pretty difficult. But from what I've seen, obviously they're not live game reps, but he's sharp and he's spinning it, so it may be certain rust, when you actually get in the game, him going back to Houston. But as far as I know and what I can see now he looks sharp."
The benefit Watson has had is some time to get himself back up to speed with his teammates. He returned to the meeting room on Oct. 10, which allowed him to be involved with the day-to-day conversations among the quarterbacks.
Watson has been practicing on the field since Nov. 16. Most of those reps, though, were on the scout team.
On Wednesday, it was finally Watson's offense again.
"I think that's important and I think, especially when you've been out as long as he has, to get back as many game reps as you can," Mond said. "There's only so much you could do with routes on air and trying to simulate defenses and, even when he's back, scout team is obviously a big part in him getting reps, but the game is always different and he was probably firsthand to tell you that. I think he'll shake back quick and I think he'll play well."
Even while Watson was out of the building on his suspension, there was a connection between him and the other quarterbacks. That came through a group text thread, which was permissible under the terms of his suspension as long as the conversation didn't veer into game-plan items.
Still, there's nothing that can replicate being directly involved in the meeting room and on the practice field. Mond said he believes that at least provides Watson with plenty of time to get himself ready for his first start.
"I mean, I think they're one of the biggest things," Mond said. "I think for him to actually be able to come back a little bit early instead of just getting this one week it was huge for him and to get practice reps, but kind of get acclimated to calling plays again and things of that nature, which can also be somewhat difficult. But, like I said, he's done great and we're looking forward to watching him."
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This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Kellen Mond believes Deshaun Watson will be 'sharp' when he returns for Browns