Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson will not play in the team’s Week 4 game against the Ravens, as Josina Anderson of CBS Sports reports. Watson is dealing with a right shoulder contusion, and while player and team hoped that he would be able to play through the injury, that will not be the case.
Watson struggled through the first two games of the 2023 season, but in Week 3, he looked like the Pro Bowler the Browns believed they were getting when they made the now-infamous decision to trade a king’s ransom for the embattled quarterback and hand him a fully-guaranteed five-year, $230MM contract in March 2022. In Cleveland’s 27-3 romp over the Titans last week, Watson completed 27 of 33 passes for 289 yards and two touchdowns.
As James Palmer of the NFL Network notes, Watson did not throw much in practice this week as he attempted to rest his shoulder. During today’s pregame warmup and throwing session, it became clear that he was not healthy enough to suit up.
Fifth-round rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson will get the nod in Watson’s absence, and he will be tasked with leading the team in an important divisional matchup. The Browns had initially planned to have Josh Dobbs serve as Watson’s backup this year, but when the QB-needy Cardinals made an “out-of-the-blue” trade offer for Dobbs at the end of August, Cleveland decided to pull the trigger on the trade and elevate Thompson-Robinson to the QB2 role.
Obviously, that decision indicated that the Browns were comfortable with Thompson-Robinson being called into action in his first professional season. Thompson-Robinson justified that faith with a strong preseason in which he completed 37 of 58 passes for two touchdowns and added 14 carries for 69 yards.
Although he did not always look like an NFL prospect during his collegiate career at UCLA, Thompson-Robinson put himself on the radar during his final season with the Bruins, completing just under 70% of his passes and throwing for 27 TDs against 10 interceptions. He also rushed for 645 yards and 12 touchdowns while maintaining a healthy 5.5 yards-per-carry rate.
The Browns have a Week 5 bye, and given that they were optimistic Watson would play this week, it seems reasonable to expect Watson to take the field against the 49ers in Week 6. However, it is obviously too early for the team to make that call.