Dorian Thompson-Robinson: 5 Things to Know About Browns’ Rookie Quarterback

The Cleveland Browns are turning to Dorian Thompson-Robinson at quarterback in the aftermath of Deshaun Watson’s season-ending shoulder injury.

Head coach Kevin Stefanski announced on Wednesday that the rookie will start under center for the Browns (6-3) against the Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3) on Sunday. This will mark the second NFL start for Thompson-Robinson, a fifth-round selection out of UCLA. And the 24-year-old is taking comfort in knowing what to expect this time around.

“Unlike many other people out there, I’ve been in an NFL game, so I’m not stepping out there for the first time,” he said during a press conference on Thursday. “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 tackle.”

The Browns host the Steelers at 1 p.m. ET Sunday in a game with AFC North and playoff implications. Before kickoff, here are five things to know about Cleveland’s new QB1.

Played 5 College Seasons at UCLA

Thompson-Robinson is from Las Vegas, Nevada, and played prep football at Bishop Gorman High School in the state. As a senior, he threw for 3,275 yards and 38 touchdowns—while also running for 426 yards and seven scores—leading the school to its ninth-consecutive state title.

The four-star recruit opted to continue his football career at UCLA. Across five seasons with the Bruins, Thompson-Robsinson threw for 10,710 yards and 88 touchdowns and reached the end zone an additional 28 times on the ground. The QB finished his college career as UCLA’s all-time leader in total offense, with 12,536 yards (and becoming the only Bruin to ever record over 12,000 yards); completions (860); total touchdowns (116); touchdown passes; and passing yards.

“He’s played a lot of football,” Stefanski said this week. “He’s very athletic, can make plays, has a very good understanding of what we do [with] our offense and those type of things. So he’s a young player that I think will just continue to get better.”

Admires Jets QB Aaron Rodgers

The former Bruins QB and current Browns signal-caller has long looked up to Aaron Rodgers as a sort of gold standard for playing the position.

So it was a surreal experience for Thompson-Robinson to make his professional debut with Rodgers on the opposing sideline. The Browns faced the Jets in this year’s Hall of Fame game, which kicked off the 2023 preseason. The rookie QB came off the bench and threw a go-ahead touchdown pass in the fourth quarter of an eventual Browns win. Rodgers didn’t appear in the game for the Jets. But that didn’t dampen the experience.

“Pretty special for me,” Thompson-Robinson said after the game. “I’ve been watching him my whole life, but just overall his message is just keep going, keep doing what I’m doing, keep my head down and keep working hard too.”

Rodgers added during a TV interview in the third quarter, “He’s a talented kid. He’s a West Coast kid. I really enjoyed watching him at UCLA.”

Has a Passion for Drawing

One of Thompson-Robinson’s hobbies away from the gridiron is drawing. The QB, in a video interview for Athlete And earlier this year, said his interest in art goes all the way back to the second grade and that he has taken a variety of classes since. One way “DTR” utilizes his skills is by designing tattoos for himself and, occasionally, his teammates.

“I won’t let anybody else put their artwork on me,” Thompson-Robinson said in the video. “It has to come from me.”

A tattoo of special significance to Thompson-Robinson covers his right arm. The rookie was friends with Dwayne Haskins, the former Ohio State and NFL quarterback who died last year. And now Thompson-Robinson honors Haskins with a tattoo of the QB along his sleeve.

Thompson-Robinson’s Rookie Contract

Cleveland selected Thompson-Robinson with the No. 140 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.

The rookie signed a four-year, $4.18 million contract with the Browns based on his draft slot, including a $342,272 signing bonus, $342,272 guaranteed, and an average annual salary of just over $1 million, according to Spotrac. This season, he will earn a base salary of $750,000 while carrying a cap hit of $835,568.

First NFL Start Didn’t Go So Well

The Browns are certainly hoping Thompson-Robinson’s second professional start goes better than his first. The rookie was under center in Week 4 against the Baltimore Ravens while Watson dealt with a different injury. He completed 19 of his 36 passes for 121 yards and three interceptions in a 28-3 Browns loss.

And Thompson-Robinson admitted that his confidence was shaken afterward.

“When you get an opportunity to play and you don’t play up to your standards, then obviously you don’t get the job the next week—it’s frustrating,” he said this week. “All those emotions just tend to come up naturally. But luckily, I still have a job.

“I’m still able to come into this building like I have wonderful teammates and staff that support me and embrace me. And even when I was confident, they’re telling me to be even more confident. So those guys always push me to be my best every day. So, it’s hard not to move past stuff and move on quickly.”

Stefanski acknowledged on Wednesday that Thompson-Robinson was put in a tough spot against an imposing Ravens defense in Week 4. But the fourth-year Browns coach said he thinks a full week of participation and “DTR” knowing he’s going to be the starter will be valuable.

The 6-foot-2 signal-caller showed enough promise in training camp for the Browns to trade away backup Joshua Dobbs. And Cleveland opted to start the rookie this week over P.J. Walker. Losing Watson stings for a 6-3 Browns team that has won four of its last five, including two in a row.

But there is internal belief that Thompson-Robinson can keep Cleveland in the playoff picture.

“I felt like [we] were turning a corner to really make a run and, you know, I still believe we still will with the guys in this locker room,” Watson said on Wednesday.

Uncommon Knowledge

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Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.

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