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Browns QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson ready for 2nd NFL start: 'I'm not just going out there wide-eyed anymore'

Dorian Thompson-Robinson
Posted at 5:14 PM, Nov 16, 2023

BEREA, Ohio — Browns rookie quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson's first NFL start didn't go the way he'd hoped. He was put in a tough spot and struggled against the Baltimore Ravens. With Deshaun Watson now out for the season with a broken shoulder, Thompson-Robinson has a shot at redemption, getting the start against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday.

It's a moment he's been waiting for since Week 4.

The Browns' fifth-round draft pick made his first NFL start on Oct. 1 this year. He had taken some first-team reps throughout the week leading up to the game after Watson was limited with the shoulder contusion he sustained the week before but was expected to play through.

All week, the plan was for Watson to start—but just 90 minutes before kickoff, as the Browns had to announce their inactive players and after Watson took warmups in the field, he was ruled out, and Thompson-Robinson learned he would, in fact, be playing that game.

"I know he had a chance, and it wasn't really a fair shot earlier in the year. So this week, I think he's really focused on just trying to absorb the game plan and not do too much, just do his job," said offensive lineman Joel Bitonio.

That uncertainty and being thrown into his first start didn't end well for the young QB. Thompson-Robinson threw 19-for-36 with 121 yards, no touchdowns and three interceptions. It wasn't his best, and he knew it. The Browns did, too, and named P.J. Walker the backup, with Watson still dealing with the shoulder contusion.

"Of course, when you get an opportunity to play, you don't play up to your standards, and then obviously you don't get the job the next week, it’s frustrating," Thompson-Robinson said.

However, Thompson-Robinson hasn't let those frustrations shake him. Over the past several weeks, he's been working hard, studying the game, and learning behind Walker and Watson.

Head coach Kevin Stefanski even gave him the scout team ball last week for his work helping the Browns' defense prep against the Ravens and quarterback Lamar Jackson. The game that saw Watson sustain a broken bone in his throwing shoulder, which has placed him on season-ending injured reserve as he is set to have surgery to repair the injury next week.

With their starting quarterback out for the season, the Browns, seeing all the work Thompson-Robinson put in and knowing his ceiling, turn to the rookie once more.

While he has a tough AFC North divisional matchup with the Steelers ahead of him, this time around promises to be different than his first start.

The Browns named Thompson-Robinson the starter on Wednesday, informing him on Tuesday. That gives him a full week of preparation knowing he's the starter—and allowing the Browns to come up with a gameplan catered specifically for him, a luxury he didn't get with the short notice in Week 4.

"I think he understands now that he's going to be starting Sunday as opposed to, hey, he probably didn't think he was going to play last time. No excuses, but he'll have the whole week to prep. That's the biggest thing," said offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt.

Thompson-Robinson feels that this time around will be different thanks to this week of prep—and the lessons learned in his first start.

"I've been in an NFL game, so I'm not stepping out there for the first time. I know all my keys, all what to look at throughout film, what to watch, who key players are on their defense and everything now. So I'm not just going out there wide-eyed anymore. I'm going out there with things to look at, things to focus on and a plan to be able to attack," Thompson-Robinson said.

Sunday's game is important. With a win, the Browns, according to PFF, would have more than a 30% higher shot at making the playoffs. A loss would give them around a 50/50 chance.

Getting the win starts with a redemption game from Thompson-Robinson. He knows that—and he's ready.

"If you look at the circumstances, what we got to go up against and all the things that come with this game, you have to win. It's a must-win game. Not only just for this week, but our future, and what we're trying to get to and the goals we're trying to get to. So, it's a big game. At the end of the day, if I go out there and follow my rules, I'll be alright," he said.

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