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Five things to watch at OTAs, including a Deshaun Watson throwing update

The NFL offseason program is heating up.

The next phase arrives this week with organized team activities. The Browns will hold 10 voluntary practices over the next three weeks, starting Tuesday.

A three-day mandatory minicamp will follow from June 11-13.

For the first time since the offseason program opened April 15, the offense and defense can line up against each other. No live contact is permitted, but seven-on-seven, nine-on-seven and 11-on-11 drills are allowed.

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The media will get to watch Wednesday for the first time, so here are five things I’m most interested to see over the next three weeks.


WHAT’S HE DOING?

We know Deshaun Watson has been throwing following shoulder surgery in November. We know he and the Browns have said the rehab has been on or ahead of schedule.

The details beyond that remain fuzzy.

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Watson threw Tuesday and isn’t scheduled to Wednesday as part of the rehab plan. When reporters finally get to lay eyes on him with a ball leaving his hand — likely next week — we’ll have a better idea of the velocity, length and strength of the throws and whether he’s a part of team drills or just individuals.

Watson will be limited during OTAs and minicamp, but any practice work now should help him get up to speed in July and August so he’s ready when September comes and the Cowboys visit for the opener.

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With a schedule loaded with some of the best quarterbacks in the league, the Browns will need Watson to be healthy and at the top of his game.

Even when Watson isn’t throwing, there’s plenty to watch at quarterback.

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Jameis Winston was signed in the offseason to back up Watson and will likely get the lion’s share of the reps. He hasn’t made a start since Sept. 25, 2022, so the extra snaps should serve him well.

He’s also got an infectious personality that should be obvious on the field.

Tyler Huntley is also new to the Browns after spending four years in Baltimore. He should also receive plenty of opportunities with Dorian Thompson-Robinson recovering from a hip injury that sent him to injured reserve in December.

The Browns cut undrafted rookie Jacob Sirmon on Monday, so they are confident they can handle the quarterback reps with the four they’ve got.

REHAB CENTRAL

The Browns have a long list of other players trying to return from serious injuries, and OTAs will provide a sense of how much progress they’ve made.

** Tackles Jedrick Wills Jr., Dawand Jones and Jack Conklin ended last season on IR after knee surgeries and are at different stages of their recoveries. Wills and Jones should be able to participate to some degree — the Browns released video Tuesday that showed Jones on the field with a helmet — while Conklin may wait until training camp.

** Running back Nick Chubb won’t practice until training camp, at the earliest, following two knee surgeries after a Week 2 injury. He’s been rehabbing in the facility since the injury and is running again, so maybe reporters will be able to catch a glimpse of him working.

** Running back/returner Nyheim Hines didn’t play in 2023 after sustaining a torn anterior cruciate ligament in a Sea-Doo accident July 2. He had surgery Aug. 8.

** Defensive tackle Maurice Hurst II missed the end of the season with a torn pectoral muscle, and safety Rodney McLeod Jr. finished the season on IR with a torn biceps.

** Receiver Michael Woods II missed all of last season with a torn Achilles sustained in the offseason. The sixth-round pick in 2022 will be fighting for a roster spot.

FITTING IN

Receiver Jerry Jeudy was the team’s biggest offseason acquisition, and OTAs should allow for a firsthand look. The Browns didn’t hesitate to sign him to a three-year, $52.5 million extension after acquiring him in a trade, so he’s a part of their long-term plans.

Jeudy was a first-round pick of the Broncos in 2020 but didn’t live up to his potential. The Browns believe he’ll flourish with more stability at coach and quarterback and expect Jeudy’s quickness and route running to be a great fit in new coordinator Ken Dorsey’s spread system that features choice routes. In a choice route, the receivers determine the break of their route based on the defender’s leverage.

The OTAs and minicamp will give a glimpse into the changes expected in Dorsey’s scheme, as well as how quickly Jeudy is adjusting to it and his new surroundings.

MORE NEW GUYS

Veteran Jordan Hicks signed in March and steps into a starting linebacker spot. Devin Bush, a former first-round pick of the Steelers, also signed and will try to resurrect his career by carving out a role among the linebackers.

Veteran defensive tackle Quinton Jefferson was signed to bolster the interior, and it will be interesting to see where he fits in a stacked rotation. D’Onta Foreman and Hines are new at running back, and kicker Cade York returns as a backup.

The rookie class will also be on the field, led by defensive tackle Mike Hall Jr., a second-round pick out of Ohio State. The rookies should have their eyes and ears wide open to pick up every bit of information from coaches and veterans.

TAKING ATTENDANCE

Until the mandatory minicamp in June, the offseason program is voluntary.

So players will be in and out depending on the day, and some will skip entirely. Pro Bowl left guard Joel Bitonio has chosen to abstain in recent years.

But it’s still valuable, to a certain extent, to see who’s in attendance and what the initial rotations and depth charts look like.

Browns writer for The Chronicle-Telegram and The Medina Gazette. Proud graduate of Northwestern University. Husband and stepdad. Avid golfer who needs to hit the range to get down to a single-digit handicap. Right about Johnny Manziel, wrong about Brandon Weeden. Contact Scott at 440-329-7253, or email and follow him on and Twitter.

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