Since returning to the NFL in 1999, the Cleveland Browns have been an absolute mess at quarterback. Stretches of futility have plagued the franchise for achingly long periods of time. Seemingly every year we optimistically watch the newest training camp quarterback competition. Inevitably, the eventual starter gets supplanted or ends the season on injured reserve. 2017 will start in much the same way, but it’s possible this year will play out a little differently. There are three potential starting quarterbacks on the roster this year, and I am going to make the case for (and against) all three of them to start.
Cleveland Browns: Three Potential Starting Quarterbacks
For: Entering the league as a third rounder 2016, the third quarterback on the depth chart was Cody Kessler. He wasn’t supposed to see any playing time. However, injuries to Robert Griffin III and Josh McCown forced the Browns to scrap this plan, and Cody was thrust into the starting role. He vastly outperformed expectations, ending up with a 92.3 passer rating and a 6-2 touchdown to interception ratio. His starting experience in Hue Jackson’s system, first team reps in camp, and a full off season under his belt should help him win the starting job.
Against: Injuries, specifically concussions, seem to be a recurring theme for Kessler. Part of the blame falls on the offensive line, but he also holds the ball too long at times. He hasn’t yet learned to avoid big hits that he doesn’t need to take. He lacks top-level arm strength, and this noticeably hinders him in certain situations. What is more concerning is that despite starting eight games, he failed to win a single one of them.
For: Osweiler has the most starting experience out of any of the quarterbacks, and holds a 13-8 regular season record as a starter. He does have limited playoff experience and he knows what it takes to get there. Osweiler has a very big frame at 6′ 7″ and he’s been durable throughout his career, which is rare at quarterback for Cleveland. He can pass on some valuable lessons to the young quarterbacks around him, and definitely has sufficient arm strength to push the ball down the field.
Against: Osweiler was absolutely abysmal with the Texans in 2016, and they were willing to do almost anything to ship him out of town. The only season in which Brock put up a passer rating of 90 or higher, he only threw ten passes. He has extremely limited mobility, and tends to make poor decisions pretty often. He will have to adjust to Hue Jackson’s system, and most think the current front office views him as a trade piece.
For: Without question, Kizer has the highest ceiling of the three potential starting quarterbacks. He has the biggest arm, prototypical size, and the best ability of the three to escape pressure and run. He seems to be a very polite and good mannered player while maintaining a healthy competitive edge. Hue Jackson could prove to be a massive help to the 21-year-old rookie, as he did with Andy Dalton in Cincinnati.
Against: There is no hurry to start him, and Cleveland may want to see what it has in Kessler. Kizer’s completions, completion percentage, yards, and yards per attempt all dropped from his first to second year at Notre Dame. Although youth can be a plus, it may also limit him and hold him behind his competitors. Brian Kelly voiced his opinion that DeShone isn’t ready for the NFL and should have stayed one more year at Notre Dame.
Who Starts in the Season Opener?
Overall, the expectation is that Cody Kessler will start for the Cleveland Browns in Week One against the Steelers. However, DeShone Kizer will end up starting at some point in 2017. Cleveland will likely trade Brock Osweiler to a team that needs an emergency quarterback before the season starts. Preseason should be particularly telling this year. Keep close watch as to who starts certain games and who gets the most reps with the first team offense. Until then, enjoy yet another Browns quarterback battle. Let’s all hope we have some semblance of clarity at this time a year from now.