Another year, another Cleveland Browns training camp battle at the quarterback position. I, for one, am quite sick of saying this year after year but until the Browns find their starting quarterback, we should all get used to the yearly tradition. Well, we have pretty much acquainted ourselves to the quarterback competition every summer.
This year is indeed different than all the previous years (as the quarterback group has changed with a few guys added to the room) but it also has a few similarities too. I will start with the similarities first.
For the second consecutive year, quarterback guru Hue Jackson is the man running the show. I think it is safe to say that Hue Jackson has his most difficult task of his coaching career ahead, finding a franchise quarterback for an organization that has been plagued by poor quarterback play for over two decades. Jackson is certainly not one to run away from his problems. He has said countless times since his tenure with the Browns started almost a year and a half ago that, “We are going to find a quarterback for this franchise.”
Also for the second consecutive year, the Browns added a rookie quarterback to the roster in round three or higher in the NFL Draft. That would be DeShone Kizer (round two), who was drafted just under three months ago and Cody Kessler (round three) from the 2016 draft. The two of them are expected to compete for the week one starting gig in a season kick-off that will take place in Cleveland against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
There are more differences than similarities this year at quarterback for the Browns. First off, the team added a new quarterbacks coach. That would be David Lee, who previously worked with the Buffalo Bills, after Pep Hamilton’s departure to the University of Michigan. Second, there has been a change in scenery in terms of veteran quarterbacks competing for the starting position this year. Well-respected quarterback mentor Josh McCown is no longer on the Browns roster after being released by the team earlier in this offseason (McCown signed with the New York Jets after being released).
Troubled veteran quarterback Brock Osweiler, who had one of the worst quarterback seasons in the NFL last year while leading one of the NFL’s most talented offenses, was traded to the Browns in addition with a second round pick. The Browns originally were going to eat Osweiler’s salary for the “salary dump trade”. But after not being able to find a trade partner for Osweiler, he will compete for the starting QB job with young gunslingers Kessler, Kizer and Kevin Hogan.
One of these four quarterbacks will be crowned the starter of the Browns by the time September 10th rolls around. Which one will it be? Well, let’s find out!
#6 – Cody Kessler (6’1″ 215 lbs.)
2016 Stat Totals: nine games – eight starts, 1380 yards, six touchdowns, two interceptions, 128/195 – 65.6% completion, 92.3 QBR
PFF Rating: 74.4 (25th best quarterback)
I do not think I have truly seen a rookie quarterback make such drastic improvements during the 2016 season from training camp/pre-season to the regular season (and that’s saying a lot). From literally running out of bounds in the end-zone for a safety in a pre-season game in Green Bay, to literally being thrown out to the wolves week three as the starting quarterback against the Miami Dolphins (a playoff team), in a game the Browns almost won (if it was not for a horrendous field goal effort from kicker Cody Parkey). Kessler was literally hung out to dry with an offensive line in front of him featuring Cam Erving as a starter. As a result, Kessler finished last season with two concussions after being sacked 21 times in nine games.
Kessler enters 2017 training camp competing for the Browns starting quarterback position, a much different situation from a year ago where Cody expected to be the number three quarterback behind Robert Griffin III and McCown. One of Kessler’s major weaknesses last year was throwing the ball downfield. He is said to have improved his downfield passing ability in the offseason, but the word out of mandatory minicamp from beat reporters in the spring was that it looked better but nothing drastically better.
Coach Jackson proclaimed Kessler the starting quarterback heading into training camp when he said, “Cody deserved the honor, being the most experienced Browns quarterback on the roster.” Although Kessler will be taking the majority of first team snaps in training camp, Osweiler and Kizer are on his tail for the starting position.
#17 – Brock Osweiler (6’7″ 240 lbs.)
2016 Stat Totals (Houston Texans): 15 games – 14 starts, 2957 yards, 15 touchdowns, 16 interceptions, 301/510 – 59.0% completion, 55.3 QBR
PFF Rating: 48.6 (32nd best QB)
Osweiler is probably one of the most intriguing quarterbacks in football this year. Osweiler went from being one of the most coveted quarterback free agents in 2016 to the worst starting quarterbacks and a “locker room cancer” in a matter of months. One of the best quarterbacks of all time and one of the best general managers in the NFL, John Elway of the Denver Broncos, was preparing to pay Osweiler over $65 million dollars. Osweiler then opted to join the Houston Texans on an enormous four year, $72 million dollar deal, including $37 million dollars guaranteed.
I think it is safe to say that the Osweiler experiment in Houston did not go so well; to the extent that the Texans essentially traded a second-round pick just to dump his salary off to the Browns. Now, the Browns are stuck with a quarterback who they did not even want in the first place, after failing to find a suitable trade partner.
I guess being stuck with a once-coveted free agent quarterback may not be so bad after all. Well, considering the fact that in Denver, he looked to be a decent NFL starting quarterback, to the point that the Broncos almost considered starting him in THE SUPER BOWL OVER PEYTON MANNING. Osweiler is the prototypical AFC North quarterback we all have been waiting for with his 6’7″ stature.
There has been conflicting reports out of Berea, saying he has looked great in mini-camp. The conflicting report is that the word is to trade-bait teams into acquiring the unwanted Browns quarterback (which may be more likely than not). Let’s take our chances and see what the guy has left. After all, a change of scenery may be beneficial for him in hopes for a career revival. Hopefully, the humbled quarterback turns out to be a diamond in the rough, rather than fool’s gold for the quarterback troubled Browns.
#7 – DeShone Kizer [rookie] (6’4″ 233 lbs.)
2016 Stat Totals (Notre Dame Fighting Irish): 13 games, 2925 yards, 26 touchdowns, nine interceptions, 212/361 – 58.7% completion
Career Collegiate Stat Totals: 25 games, 5805 yards, 47 touchdowns, nine interceptions, 422/695 – 60.7% completion
PFF Rating: N/A
Kizer is the most intriguing rookie quarterback in the NFL and the most intriguing rookie quarterback the Browns have had in over 10 years (exclude Johnny Manziel). Kizer went from being a top-five projected NFL pick in the 2017/2018 draft, to unexpectedly leaving The University of Notre Dame after a feud with Head Coach Brian Kelly. He fell into the Browns’ lap in the second round.
I had DeShone Kizer graded as my best college quarterback that opted to enter the NFL Draft. I think he will be the most successful in the NFL out of the other quarterback draft prospects (Mitchell Trubisky, Deshaun Watson, etc.). With that being said, I think he is by far the most raw and unready to play quarterback out of the group mentioned.
While watching Kizer at Notre Dame, he clearly possessed everything an NFL team wants in a quarterback. He is very intelligent, he has a great arm, decent feet, he can run, he has good vision, and can move the ball down field at will. He also has accuracy issues and of course you have to question the 4-8 season at one of college football’s best programs, Notre Dame.
I can say first hand (being that I am a Notre Dame fan) that last season was more of Brian Kelly’s fault than anyone else. Kizer certainly had a shaky season, but after all was saud and done, he still was one of the best quarterbacks coming out of college.
Kizer enters Cleveland with immediate pressure to succeed right away. He had the best spring/early summer out of any of the other Browns quarterbacks and is the most talented guy out of the group. As a result, Kizer has a great chance to be the week one starting quarterback vs. the Steelers. I think it is still Kessler’s job to lose but a bad performance in a pre-season game and a good performance by Kizer could change things up immediately. Although DeShone does not expect to start right away and he is embracing the learning process, don’t expect him to sit around for too long as coach Jackson has reportedly fell in love with the rookie quarterback.
#8 – Kevin Hogan (6’3″ 218 lbs.)
2016 Stat Totals: 4 games, 104 yards, zero touchdowns, two interceptions, 14/26 – 53.8% completion, 70.3 QBR
PFF Rating: 66.6
Coming out of college, I was a big time fan of Hogan’s tenure at Stanford. I thought if put in the right situation, he could develop to be a great backup quarterback or serviceable starter. Well, Hogan was drafted into a tremendous situation after being drafted by QB Guru Andy Reid’s Kansas City Chiefs, where he would be the 3rd QB behind Alex Smith and Nick Foles (or Aaron Murray, who was later released). Hogan was released and claimed by the Browns just before the start of the regular season.
Hogan appeared in a few games for the Browns, most noticeably against the Cincinnati Bengals. I never thought he looked all that bad but he certainly has a long way to go before he is what I thought he could become. I do not think he has a real shot at winning the Browns starting quarterback job (barring injury). Ultimately, I think Hogan will be waived by the Browns and join the practice squad.
Week 1 Roster Prediction: 1. DeShone Kizer 2. Cody Kessler 3. Brock Osweiler 4. Kevin Hogan (practice squad)
*Stats received by Pro Football Reference and College Football Reference, PFF rating received by Pro Football Focus, Salaries received by Sportrac, Measurables received by ClevelandBrowns.com
Kyle Kelly, Browns Chalk Talk and The Sports Daily
(@KyleKellyBrowns) on Twitter