With Deshaun Watson sidelined for the remainder of the 2023 season after suffering a fractured shoulder that will require surgery vs. the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, the Cleveland Browns are making a move at quarterback.
On Wednesday, Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski announced that the team will start rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson in its Week 11 matchup vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday. After entering the 2023 campaign as Watson’s primary backup, the UCLA product was demoted to third-string after completing 19 of his 36 pass attempts for 121 yards and three interceptions in a Week 4 loss to the Ravens, which Watson missed due to a different shoulder injury.
Veteran P.J. Walker would play in Watson’s place in victories over the San Francisco 49ers and Indianapolis Colts, as well as in a loss vs. the Seattle Seahawks. Although Cleveland largely played winning football with Walker under center, many felt the Browns were winning in spite of their quarterback play, not because of it.
While the 24-year-old Thompson-Robinson played poorly in his first career NFL start, it’s worth noting that he only found out that he would be playing vs. the Ravens hours before kickoff. Heading into Sunday’s matchup vs. Pittsburgh, the two-time second-team All-Pac 12 performer will get a full week of practice, which Stefanski is hopeful will make a difference compared to his first start.
“Every week you’re trying to just make the best decisions you can for your team,” the 2020 NFL Coach of the Year told reporters. “I want to give him a week where he knows he’s the starter. He gets a full week of preparation.”
Asked why he was confident why Thompson-Robinson would perform better against Pittsburgh than he did against Baltimore, Stefanski replied: “Young players need exposure. You get better in practice. Sometimes you get better through games.”
Despite Watson’s injury, Cleveland remains in the thick of the AFC playoff picture at 6-3 on the season. The Browns, however, will have their hands full against a 6-3 Steelers team that beat Cleveland 26-22 in Pittsburgh in Week 2.