Last year, the Cleveland Browns’ top two quarterbacks were Robert Griffin III and Josh McCown. After both quarterbacks ate up most of the reps in all of training camp, by Week 3, the team was already forced to play then-rookie Cody Kessler due to injuries. That’s just how things tend to go for the Browns and their quarterback position.
2017 is a new year, but we aren’t any closer to knowing who the Browns’ quarterback of the future might be. To kick off our annual training camp preview, we will take a look at the team’s quarterback position. Cleveland has four quarterbacks in camp -- Kessler, Brock Osweiler, DeShone Kizer, and Kevin Hogan. In Part 1 of our QB preview, we’ll look at Kessler and Osweiler.
1. Cody Kessler - Offseason Starting QB
Height: 6-1 | Weight: 215 lbs | Age: 24
Experience: 2 years | College: USC
The expectations for Kessler were very low heading into the 2016 season, and even though he went 0-8 as a starter, he played better than we thought he would. On the season, Kessler completed 65.6% of his passes for 1,380 yards, 6 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions. He didn’t take off very often, only having 11 rushes for 18 yards and 1 lost fumble.
As DBN’s Andrea Hangst pointed out last week, there are some statistics in that rookie season that reflect well on Kessler. He was pressured a league-high 47.5% of the time, and his adjusted completion percentage when under pressure was 80.6%, which was by far the best in the AFC North. Kessler’s strong suit as a rookie was that he seemed to pick up the offense fine and looked comfortable, all things considered.
Kessler was accurate when it came to short passes...but it was the long-distance passes and the need for some aggressive throws downfield that didn’t sit well with fans or head coach Hue Jackson. Most of Kessler’s downfield throws were off target or lacked the arm strength needed for a good play. Even when Jackson instructured Kessler to be more aggressive in prime time, the young quarterback couldn’t help is and was promptly benched at halftime. That decision got even wilder when the veteran McCown took his place and was picked off three times trying to get the ball downfield.
This is a new year, but despite what he said at the time, the reason for that benching will always be in the back of Jackson’s mind. If Kessler’s new throwing motion and second-year effort in camp doesn’t pass the eye test with Jackson, how likely is he going to be to stake another season on Kessler? Sure, an improved offensive line like the Browns have in 2017 will help any quarterback’s production, but the lack of a downfield threat from Kessler last year screamed “career backup” and I’d be hard-pressed to believe he’ll significantly improve in that area in one offseason.
Final Roster Odds: 99%
2. Brock Osweiler - Shunned-but-Now-Competing QB
Height: 6-8 | Weight: 235 lbs | Age: 26
Experience: 5 years | College: Arizona State
“Look at the tape.”
On the surface, that seemed like a dumb comment from the Browns’ offseason addition to the quarterback room. When I watched Osweiler last year, I saw one-too-many baffling decisions that prevented a very solid Texans team from being a legitimate contender in the AFC. If we’re going based on decision-making, no one is going to want to “look at the tape” with Osweiler. Aside: Here is one ‘highlight reel’ for Osweiler, showing off the good parts of his game.
But maybe Osweiler is referring more to his physical attributes that give him an edge over the other quarterbacks, which comes down to size and arm strength (although that is evident just from a few minutes of looking at him; you can almost forget the tape). This is where I see Osweiler as someone who could be thought of differently by Hue Jackson. With Kessler, Jackson might feel the quarterback is physically limited, so he no amount of coaching will get him to where he needs to be. With Osweiler, the tools are there, which presents Jackson with the challenge of fine-tuning those tools in his offense.
Another asset that Osweiler has is the ability and willingness to take off every so often for some yards on the ground. Last year, he ran 30 times for 131 yards and 2 touchdowns. His passing stats last year saw him complete 59% of his passes for 2,957 yards, 15 touchdowns, and 16 interceptions. When Cleveland first acquired Osweiler, it was pretty clear that they just wanted the second-round pick that the Texans included in the deal. When they couldn’t dump him to another club, I think the team’s opinion slowly came around to letting Osweiler have a fair shot at the starting job. No one is in love with him, but if DeShone Kizer isn’t ready by opening day, then Jackson will to choose from a true tale of two very different tapes.
Final Roster Odds: 80%
We will ask about Kizer in Part 2 of our QB preview. For now, our poll below only considers Kessler and Osweiler for the starting job — who do you have?
If the Browns’ starting QB job comes down to Cody Kessler vs. Brock Osweiler in Week 1, who would you put money on to be the starter?
This poll is closed