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The Cleveland Browns Shifting QB Paradigm - Ez Likes Sunday Morning 8/13/17

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The First Preseason Game Has Muddled The Already Unclear Situation

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Cleveland Browns
His facial expression represents my giddiness
Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

The Most Important Offseason Of Our Lives 2017 has officially come to an end, and now we have real, actual (albeit meaningless) football happening! As is to be expected, it’s causing everyone to (wildly over)react in awesome and predictable ways. I say this with great love and admiration for all of my compatriots because I too come away probably more enthusiastic about everything we are doing than I should be. It is, after all, one preseason game.

However we have waited all offseason for this, and it did totally pay off. We are the same people that read WAY more into a scrimmage than what is probably healthy just last week, so I’ll not try too hard to downplay anyone’s optimism or snap-projections made. I’ll not detail all of it because it’s been excellently done by a slew of tremendous writers already →

As I mentioned last week I tend to think the real value of preseason is in the evaluation of the fringy players (as well as some ancillary benefits of professional practicing as a team a bit before the hitting starts for real). As such, I don’t read a whole lot into performances in terms of meaning anything significant.

This seems counterintuitive to my general acceptance of the preseason routine as useful and good (maybe even necessary). It’s just not terribly relevant as far as determining who will and won’t be successful when the bullets start flying for real. I’m sure we all fondly remember Brandon Weeden’s epic 2013 preseason. How’d that work out?

That said, there are traits that you can watch from a player that can give you an indication of his abilities, sometimes completely irrespective of the actual outcome of the play. If a young player does everything he’s supposed to do, or shows a proficiency where there was doubt about his ability in that arena, then it’s a good preseason game regardless the result of the play or the final score.

With respect to the Quarterback position, the Browns still have three (3) viable candidates for the starting roll, with nothing clear about who will be the man coming opening day against the Steelers. All three of them could credibly be named the starter after what’s been demonstrated thus far. Yet even after the game, Coach Hue Jackson remains non-committal. To be sure, each has his reasons pro and con, which is what we continue to look at:

Brock Osweiler

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Cleveland Browns
Brock stood tall, as expected
Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

Somewhat surprisingly, Coach Hue named Osweiler the starter for the 1st preseason game, even though he hadn’t really practiced at all with the 1st team offense during training camp. In fact, that was part of the justification as it turned out:

"One, we have a veteran player that's played in games, knows how to win and I need to give him an opportunity to demonstrate that," Jackson said. "And No. 2 we still have some young quarterbacks that need to play a lot of football. You know, if I stuck one of those other guys out as the starter, they weren't going to play a lot of football because they're probably going to come out with the other vets.
"When you sit down and think through it all, you think what's best for our football team, it's best for me to trot Brock out there to see if he can go lead this offense and lead the team and in the process keep getting these young guys more reps of playing football. They just need to play."

So then the other part of the justification was that it afforded the “young guys” more of an opportunity for playing time. This doesn’t especially strike me as a ringing endorsement for ‘ol Lobster, and suggests that while he may have been given a real shot to take the job, it certainly wasn’t going to be a slam-dunk.

As to his performance, I point to the following headlines:

NFL Preseason Blitz: Brock Osweiler struggles, DeShone Kizer steps up (Yahoo)

Brock Osweiler can explain why he kept overthrowing receivers in preseason opener (CBS)

Browns Brock Osweiler explains his poor preseason performance (fanrag)

Osweiler had a shot, likely blew it (ProFootballTalk)

DeShone Kizer looks better than Brock Osweiler and Cody Kessler in Browns debut (SBN)

You get the idea. Without even going through the stats or analyzing the play, the prevailing wisdom was that he was clawless and disappointing. On balance, he missed some throws, generally had trouble moving the offense (mostly) and didn’t score any points. Although, probably should have gotten a TD but for a missed toe-drag by Kenny Britt on a pretty nice corner fade.

To be disappointed you first must have some expectations of performance from the first preseason game. Suffice it to say I don’t really have any of those, other than I hope our guys don’t look just completely incapable of breaking a huddle or something. Past that, just let’s not get anybody hurt and let’s check out the fringe guys battling for the final two or three spots.

Thus, I’m not really down on Osweiler because of the performance, but I wasn’t exactly ‘up’ on him to begin with. I can understand starting a veteran just because he’s a veteran, but I don’t have any illusions about what to expect with him.

Cody Kessler

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Cleveland Browns
He looked about like he did last year
Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

Affectionately known as “Cod” around these parts, Kessler was the presumed starter all the way up to the vaunted scrimmage. He knew the offense because he’s the only one on the roster to work in it directly. He was with the ‘ones’ all the way through camp. When Hue named Osweiler the starter, Kessler became the #2.

He came in with the ‘twos’ and didn’t look too bad. His stat-line was comparable to Osweiler’s but again, looking at the box score of a preseason game is doing it really wrong. On balance, while he did a decent job of moving the offense, he also displayed some of the challenges he exhibited as a rookie, which shouldn’t be too surprising. In other words, he was about exactly what you’d expect.

This toss right here though is a dandy:

So did he do anything to narrow the gap with Osweiler? Tough to say, and again it really depends on how much weight you give to these games and what you’re looking for in the player. Most people seem to see Kessler as a capable backup (and nothing more). Time will tell.

DeShone Kizer

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Cleveland Browns
There was a lot to like from the young man from ND
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

So HERE is where (IMO) some real, actual meaty evaluation can happen, as the rookie (#52 overall) got to go against LIVE NFL action for the first time. Again, just looking at the stat line doesn’t tell the story. He was doing some QB things that were very, very encouraging to see for the first time out.

Plenty to be encouraged about but to me the most important was that he was running an offense very much from the pocket. He’s got great physical ability but if he’s ever going to be anything special at this level, it’s going to have to be because of his arm and (most importantly) his head.

It also appears that he was actually reading the defense and making decisions out there. The physical traits were never in doubt, but it was still nice to watch him showcase that big arm. Even nicer to see the plus-pocket presence.

Was it enough to push him up the ‘chart?

What’s Next

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Cleveland Browns
Don’t forget that Kevin Hogan (right) is also on the roster
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday, after a particularly problematic practice, coach Hue had his shortest presser of the season:

Most important part of that as far as I’m concerned:

“It’s too early to name a Quarterback”

He was quite emphatic about this, as it came on the heels of Osweiler throwing two interceptions and Kizer throwing one. I don’t know how much those things matter as much as does his still not affirming who the starter is going to be.

Which leads me to think that it will be somebody different when we lock horns with the New York Giants a week from tomorrow. As things stand right now, we’re not really any closer to knowing who the starter is going to be than we were at the beginning of all of this.

Poll

Who Do You Think The Browns’ Starting Quarterback should be now?

This poll is closed

  • 42%
    Brock Osweiler
    (589 votes)
  • 19%
    Cody Kessler
    (264 votes)
  • 37%
    DeShone Kizer
    (521 votes)
1374 votes total Vote Now