In Part 1 of our Cleveland Browns training camp preview for the quarterback position, we talked about starter Josh McCown and backup Johnny Manziel. In Part 2, we take a look at the other two quarterbacks on the roster -- Connor Shaw and Thaddeus Lewis.
Each player has something in common: they have started one Week 17 regular season game for Cleveland after the rest of the quarterbacks on the roster were injured. Now, they are vying for the No. 3 quarterback spot.
3. CONNOR SHAW - COMPETING TO BE THE NO. 3 QUARTERBACK
Connor Shaw was an undrafted free agent quarterback who the team signed in 2014. He had a great senior year at South Carolina, where he completed 63.4% of his passes with 24 touchdowns and just 1 interception. He's also more mobile than one might think and also showed a propensity in the preseason to roll out to his left side.
Although the Browns did not produce much offense in a 20-10 loss to the Ravens in Week 17 last year, the No. 1 thing that stood out about Shaw was how prepared he looked. After having been on the practice squad all year, there was only one communication issue while he operated the offense. He used his mobility at the right time, which helped set up a big passing play down the field. It was exactly the type of mediocre-but-promising performance we were hoping to see from Johnny Manziel in his first start.
Despite Shaw having been on the team all of last year, that alone won't be enough to beat out his competition (Lewis), who has more experience in terms of NFL starts. I give Shaw the upper hand due to his mobility and youth, though, but Cleveland may decide to just carry two quarterbacks on the gameday roster, something they did pretty much all of last season.
Final Roster Odds: 20%
Practice Squad Odds: 80%
4. THADDEUS LEWIS - COMPETING TO BE THE NO. 3 QUARTERBACK
Thaddeus Lewis was a member of the Browns from 2011-2012 after being an undrafted free agent out of Duke in 2010. He started the Browns' Week 17 game in 2012 against the Steelers, then the top defense in the NFL, and had a competent, but not overwhelming, effort.
The Browns waived Lewis during the 2013 offseason, and he eventually caught on with the Buffalo Bills. Due to a series of injuries at the Bills' quarterback position, Lewis suddenly found himself thrust into a starting role. He started 5 games, posting a 2-3 record and playing generally smart football. Lewis isn't known as a burner in terms of speed, but he's not afraid to take off when he sees an opening, as evidenced by his 24 rushes for 52 yards in 5 games.
Last year, Lewis didn't make the Bills' roster after training camp. The Houston Texans signed him in November, but he didn't see any action. When the Texans released him this past March, the Browns added him to the club -- it's worth noting that the addition of Lewis was made while the status of Manziel was still in limbo (he was in rehab). Cleveland carried four quarterbacks in training camp last year, though, so I'd expect Lewis to stick around for camp.
The disadvantage for Lewis, in my opinion, circles back to the fact that Cleveland only carried two quarterbacks on their 53-man roster a year ago. I imagine they will do the same this year since Ray Farmer is still the GM, and Cleveland would rather keep their surplus of defensive linemen or cornerbacks over a third-string quarterback. Lewis seems to be a better camp arm than Tyler Thigpen or Rex Grossman were in 2014, though, which can help develop some of the younger receivers better in camp.
Final Roster Odds: 5%
That wraps up our quarterback preview, but don't forget to vote in our poll below. Give it some thought -- consider how ill-prepared Manziel looked a year ago. Is it possible that the coaching staff will feel, "if we're in a tight game in Week 1 and McCown goes down, we'd rather put a veteran [like Lewis] in the game until Manziel improves more?"