OCTOBER 13: Watson is expected to miss a second game, CBS Sports’ Josina Anderson reports. After missing practice Wednesday and Thursday, Watson resting again is not especially surprising. But considering he was a late scratch for the Browns two weeks ago and had only missed one game due to injury between his 2017 ACL tear and this season, it is a notable development. Walker, who made eight Panthers starts from 2020-22, is set to take the reins against the 49ers. The Browns have since ruled Watson out.
OCTOBER 11: The Browns’ bye week did not move Deshaun Watson onto a smooth track toward resuming his season. The highly paid quarterback is not practicing Wednesday due to the shoulder injury that caused him to miss Week 4.
Watson is battling a rotator cuff contusion, Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com notes. Suffering the injury during a third-quarter scramble against the Titans, Watson opted to rest in Week 4 despite being cleared to play. The Browns and the 2022 trade acquisition are believed to be on the same page regarding a return timetable, but the situation is uncertain for the time being.
More certainty now exists at backup quarterback. After the Browns trotted out fifth-round rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson against the Ravens, Cabot offered that P.J. Walker might get the nod — in the event Watson is down for Week 6 — due to experience. The Browns concur, with Kevin Stefanski indicating Walker has leapfrogged Thompson-Robinson on the depth chart. If Watson is out against the 49ers, the ex-Panthers backup will be called upon to start.
Cleveland added Walker on a practice squad deal shortly after cutdown day. The Bears had released the former XFL 2.0 standout after their preseason slate wrapped. Walker, 28, has made seven NFL starts, going 4-3 in those games. Each of the starts came for Carolina, with Walker’s ex-college coach — Matt Rhule — adding to his contingent of Temple alums by re-signing the former Owls quarterback. Backing up Teddy Bridgewater, Sam Darnold and Baker Mayfield in Charlotte, Walker is a career 57.5% passer who sports a 6.4-yard average per attempt.
The drop-off from Watson to Walker would obviously be steep, but Thompson-Robinson was not ready to make an NFL start. The Browns had elevated Walker from their practice squad ahead of Week 4, though they did not use him in that Ravens matchup. Thompson-Robinson averaged a ghastly 3.4 yards per pass in Cleveland’s 28-3 loss to Baltimore, throwing three interceptions. The Browns had viewed Thompson-Robinson as ready to back up Watson, with that being the reasoning behind August’s Joshua Dobbs trade. Dobbs has continually kept the Cardinals in games as a Kyler Murray fill-in, and although Andrew Berry defended the trade recently, the Browns would have certainly had a better chance to win in Week 4 with Dobbs at the helm.
Watson missed 17 games in 2021 as a healthy scratch amid his criminal investigation for alleged sexual assault and/or sexual misconduct, and the NFL suspended the ex-Texans franchise QB for 11 games last season. Watson had only missed one game due to injury, however, since his October 2017 ACL tear. That came in 2019. Unless he returns to the practice field soon, that number will expand to three. The 5-0 49ers would then have the opportunity to face a Walker-quarterbacked Browns team.