CLEVELAND, Ohio — In this week’s Hey, Mary Kay! I answer questions about Baker Mayfield, Deshaun Watson, David Bell and more.
Hey, Mary Kay: Baker Mayfield’s knowledge of the Browns offense will definitely help the Panthers defense in Game One this season. In your opinion, how will Kevin Stefanski adapt his offensive philosophy and strategy to counter? — Bobby T., Solon, Ohio
Hey, Bobby: The Browns have changed up their passing attack considerably this season, so it will look different than what Mayfield ran the past two years. With Jacoby Brissett likely starting the opener, the gameplan will be tailored to his skillset. The Browns will also have other new skill players with their own packages of plays including Amari Cooper and rookie David Bell. They’ll do plenty of the same things they did the past two seasons, including play-action and running a lot, but they have time to install new wrinkles and new terminology. They’ll also plan to line up and do what they do best regardless of who knows what’s coming. Conversely, the Browns know all of Mayfield’s strengths and weaknesses, so they might have the edge on the inside intel.
Hey, Mary Kay: When can the Browns expect to hear something about Deshaun Watson’s suspension and how long will it be? — Sean N, Chicago, Ill.
Hey, Sean: The post-hearing briefs requested by disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson from both the NFL and NFL Players Association were due on Tuesday, and now it’s a matter of her rendering a written decision with a thorough explanation of her thinking. She’ll take all the time she needs to get it right, and it could stretch into the week Browns training camp, which begins July 27th, or beyond. Some in league circles think he’ll be on the field at some point this season, but that’s not definitive. Either side can still appeal Robinson’s decision, but if it’s eight games or so, I think both sides could live with that.
Hey Mary Kay: Do you think it’s unrealistic to expect David Bell to pretty quickly become WR2 or maybe even WR1 at some point this year? Especially when Watson resumes playing? — Jordan, Tuscaloosa, Ala. .
Hey, Jordan: It’s not unrealistic for Bell to evolve into the No. 2 receiver this season if he comes up the learning curve as quickly as the Browns expect him to. Kevin Stefanski is very excited about Bell and all he can do. Deshaun Watson has already taken him under his wing and lockers next to him. If Bell sticks with Watson (until he’s suspended if that’s the case) and also absorbs all the wisdom and knowledge he can from Amari Cooper, he should contribute in a big way this season. He’ll have stiff competition from Donovan Peoples-Jones for the No. 2 spot, and it will bring out the best in both. As for climbing to No. 1, he won’t surpass Cooper, the four-time Pro Bowler and arguably the premier route runner in the NFL.
Hey, Mary Kay: Some Prognosticators are talking about Baker Mayfield being a favorite for Comeback Player of the Year. If Deshaun Watson doesn’t play, I think Jacoby Brissett has the weapons around him to surprise everyone. What do you think the chances are he wins us 10+ games by playing safe and managing the games? — John Reese, Charlotte, N.C.
Hey, John: I think Brissett has enough talent around him to play at least .500 ball until Watson gets back, and that just might be enough to get the Browns to the playoffs this season. If Watson is out longer than 10 games, it will be much more difficult to make the postseason, but with an excellent defense, running game, offensive line and skill positions, they should still be in the hunt. If the suspension is long and Brissett isn’t cutting it, the Browns could always re-evaluate their QB room before the trade deadline or switch the backup they’ll bring in.
Hey, Mary Kay: How much of the NFL’s recommended Deshaun Watson indefinite suspension (at least a year) is just PR optics? We still haven’t heard any definitive proof that he’s guilty of anything. — Rico, Warren, Ohio
Hey, Rico: The NFL doesn’t have to prove a player is guilty to suspend him under the personal conduct policy. One of the violations is ‘conduct that undermines or puts at risk integrity of the NFL, NFL clubs, or NFL personnel.’ It’s a broad definition that could be applied in Watson’s case despite no criminal charges and no evidence that he coerced or forced the massage therapists to do anything. At this point, it seems like he’ll be suspended for a finite number of games with certain conditions that will have to met, such as continued counseling. He might also have to donate to women’s groups, or could decide to do that on his own.
Hey, Mary Kay: With Deshaun Watson probably being out most, if not all of the first half of the season, would it make sense to sign Will fuller maybe, after training camp? It would give Watson a known face in the receiver room and give us a down field threat if Schwartz doesn’t work out. — Zach Cleary, iCloud
Hey, Mary Kay: If Deshaun Watson is suspended for a full season, do you think that Andrew Berry and Kevin Stefanski are prepared to roll with Jacoby Brissett? I can see them bringing in a backup for Brissett, but I do not see them bringing in someone like Jimmy Garoppolo to replace Brissett as the starter this late in the process. The Browns are already paying 10 million of Baker Mayfield’s 2022 salary. I just don’t see them bringing in another high priced QB, even if it only for one season. — Steven C, Kettering, Ohio
Hey, Steven: At this moment, there are no plans to acquire Garoppolo, but the Browns quarterback room is a fluid situation. First, they must discover the length of Watson’s suspension, and then they’ll go from there. If it’s a short suspension, they feel pretty good about Brissett carrying them through those first four games — arguably the easiest start in the NFL. If it’s eight games, I believe they’ll acquire a backup to Brissett. If the NFL gets its way and he’s out for the year — which is starting to seem unlikely — the Browns will revisit their QB situation to make sure they feel comfortable with Brissett. If they don’t, they’ll consider all options, but there aren’t many. For now, Brissett is still their QB1 in Watson’s absence, and they’ll find their No. 2.
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