Jacoby Brissett struggled at times over his 11-game stint as the Cleveland Browns starter, though rarely as much as Deshaun Watson did in his first game back against the Houston Texans in Week 13.
Despite Watson’s issues under center, the Browns won easily and kept their playoff hopes alive for at least another week. A victory over their next opponent, however, isn’t likely to come so easily. Cleveland hasn’t lost to the Cincinnati Bengals during the Joe Burrow era, but the 8-4 Bengals are among the top contenders in the AFC and are in prime position to take control of the division.
The context of the matchup has led to questions as to whether Brissett shouldn’t get an opportunity to start this Sunday in Cincinnati, or at least see some snaps — especially if Watson’s obvious struggles to re-acclimate to the NFL game continue and the Browns fall behind early.
Offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt was asked about the possibility of Brissett getting run against the Bengals during a media session on Thursday.
“I think you always have the ability to call the game for Jacoby. That is the easiest part. I don’t see that happening, but that is always easy to get to,” Van Pelt said. “I would like to see [Watson] get as many reps as he can regardless of how it is going. We need to work through the rust, get it completely knocked off and feeling good about the end of the year.”
Amari Cooper Believes Watson Can Return to Form For Browns This Season
Watson’s debut performance against the Texans — in which he was 12-of-22 passing for 131 yards and an interception to go along with seven rushes for 21 yards — was a far cry from his Pro-Bowl form across his final three seasons in Houston.
However, receiver Amari Cooper believes that Watson is capable of turning it on and getting back up to speed this season by relying on his long history of elite performance. Reporters inquired of the the team’s No. 1 wideout as to whether the Browns are asking too much of Watson by dropping him into the middle of a season after nearly two years on the sidelines.
“No, not for professional quarterbacks who have played at the highest level,” Cooper said. “It is just the rhythm and timing. Once it comes, it is going to be there.”
As for developing chemistry and timing with Watson on the fly, Cooper laughed before responding.
“It is not as difficult as you may think,” he said.
Watson took responsibility for his poor play last Sunday but chalked it up, in part, to the magnitude and emotion of the experience.
“Yeah, I think last week, it was a lot. The anticipation to just be back on the field, the anticipation of going back to my former team, the anticipation of playing against former teammates and being in front of a crowd that used to cheer for me at the time. So all that stuff was definitely, it was a lot,” Watson said Thursday.
“I wouldn’t say [the game was] fast, it was mostly just being able to adjust,” Watson continued. “Like I said before, really just the conditioning level, being able to go out there and operate, see things like I’ve been seeing [them] before and then get on the same page with the whole offensive staff of what we want to do for the game plan to execute.”
Brissett Unlikely to Appeal to Browns For Snaps Against Bengals
As for Brissett, Browns fans shouldn’t expect to hear anything directly from him about this situation or any other. The former starter and current backup hasn’t spoken with the media since November 27 after he led Cleveland to a comeback victory in overtime against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Based on what Brissett did say the last time he spoke publicly, as well as his reputation as the consummate teammate and a quality locker room personality, it seems highly unlikely he would undercut Watson’s return in the name of personal interest.
“I knew what it was when I signed up for it,” Brissett told MMQB’s Albert Breer of his decision to accept a one-year deal in Cleveland. “I’m a starting quarterback in this league, I can confidently say that. … But, I mean, that’s the future, and I can’t think about that right now. I just gotta be where I’m at right now.”
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