BEREA — The Browns always knew the final six games of the season were going to be like an appetizer.
It was going to be their first opportunity to really see Deshaun Watson working within the confines of their offense in game situations.
The main course is coming next season, when the Browns hope to have Watson as their starting quarterback from the season opener through the finale. As they head into the finale of this season on Sunday at Pittsburgh, though, the question remains how much does that fact ultimately change the dynamics of what that offense truly looks like with him at the controls.
Since coach Kevin Stefanski and offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt arrived in Cleveland in 2020, the running game has been a centralized piece of the offense. It may not have always seemed that way to some who want 20-plus carries every game for Nick Chubb, but the running game is something around which much has been built.
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How that changes, though, from the time the Browns finish their game with the Steelers until the time they kick off next season wherever that may be is something even those whose hands are directly involved with the offense can’t answer with any certainty.
“That is a fair question,” Van Pelt said when asked about that on Thursday. “I think the self-scout will tell us those answers. I know that is something that we have discussed openly: ‘Where are we now with Deshaun as our quarterback?’ We will finish this game out, we will peel that onion back and then make those decisions in the offseason.
“When you have a Pro Bowl running back, it is hard to say that you don’t want to start with that run game. It is finding that happy medium somewhere in the middle, and we will do that throughout the course of this offseason.”
Chubb has run the ball 90 times over the course of Watson’s five starts thus far. That’s an average of 18 carries a game.
The reality is that’s almost the average Chubb had over the first 11 games as well, when he ran the ball 200 times. That comes out to 18.2 carries a game.
The Browns came out of last Sunday’s win at Washington feeling like they gave a slight glimpse at the future with how they played in the second half. The statistics may not have told the whole story, but it showed an offense that was, for the first time with Watson at the controls, explosive in the passing game.
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Watson threw three touchdown passes. Although he only completed 6 of 10 passes over the final two quarters, he threw for 146 yards — 14.6 yards per attempt and 24.3 yards per completion.