Breaking down the Browns quarterback competition: Osweiler or bust?

All eyes in Cleveland will be on the Browns’ quarterback competition when Cleveland hosts the New Orleans Saints in their preseason opener tonight.  Cleveland has had an unfortunate history of starting quarterbacks since being reinstated to the NFL in 1999.  From Tim Couch down to Robert Griffin III, the Browns’ failure to produce a franchise quarterback has been well documented.

This year’s crop consists of three players trying to land the starting spot:  Cody Kessler, DeShone Kizer, and Brock Osweiler.  Each player has the ability to step in and start for the Browns, but their fans aren’t looking forward to another quarterback by committee season in 2017, so there is a definitive need to name a primary starter for the 2017 season.

Cody Kessler

Kessler had a productive outing last season for the Browns, and he also has the potential to be the Browns starter in week one of the regular season.  He displayed good patience in the pocket, didn’t rattle easily when pressured, had good footwork off the snap, showed poise when selecting his target, and made accurate short to mid range throws.

The biggest concerns facing Kessler are his poor accuracy and arm strength on deep passes, and he doesn’t have the best agility or footwork when forced out of the pocket.  His field vision could use some tinkering, his throwing mechanics could also use some work, and his accuracy drops once forced to throw from outside of the pocket.

Kessler is a smart kid, and he has a good attitude.  He is coachable, and he should also thrive under Hue Jackson’s leadership.  Kessler was named the starting quarterback entering training camp, but he won’t start the preseason in favor of veteran Brock Osweiler.  He will see his fair share of reps during the preseason, and could start the season at the helm for the Browns.

DeShone Kizer
Kizer entered the 2017 NFL Draft as the most NFL ready quarterback, having been coached within Notre Dame’s pro style offense.  Already, memories of another NFL ready Notre Dame prospect has been circling around their fan base, as their fan base won’t soon forget the bust Brady Quinn became while failing to hold down the starting spot during his tenure in Cleveland.

Kizer is a sounder prospect than Brady Quinn.  He has stellar size for a quarterback, good field vision, more agility in the pocket to avoid opposing blitzes, accurate in short to mid range passes, has solid arm strength for deep passes, and he doesn’t get easily rattled when under pressure.  As with any rookie, he lacks experience at the next level, and will have to develop that level of awareness quickly if he wants to land the starting job.
Some of the knocks against Kizer are, he has a tendency to rush his pass selection when checking down receivers, and his throwing mechanics could use some work.  He also tends to stare down his target, and while this didn’t negatively impact his production at Notre Dame, staring down receivers at the next level almost certainly leads to turnovers.

He has a great attitude, and he’s a very coachable prospect who hasn’t maxed out his abilities on the field.  If he can quickly tap into his upside, there’s little reason to doubt that the Browns may have landed the best steal in the draft finding Kizer in the second round.  Add the fact that Kizer has Hue Jackson to help him develop his game, and it almost seems inevitable that Kizer will one day be given the reigns in Cleveland.

Brock Osweiler
Osweiler came to the Browns during an off-season trade with the Houston Texans.  Cleveland gave up their 142nd pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, while they gained the Texans’ second round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, along with Osweler’s bloated contract.  Immediately following this trade, sources proclaimed that Osweler would be released or traded before the 2017 season began.  Instead, Osweiler will start the first preseason game for the Browns.

The concerns surrounding Osweiler are legit, since he failed to keep the starting job in both Denver and Houston before being traded to Cleveland.  Hue Jackson wanted to give Osweiler a fair chance to land a spot on the Browns roster, but he would be a very high priced second or third string quarterback, and at this point, there’s doubts that another team would want to trade for him prior to the deadline.

All these facts have placed an added amount of pressure on Osweiler to perform.  He looked less than impressive during training camp, so it’s possible that tonight's against the Saints could be a one and done deal for Osweiler.  Should he fail to perform, he may spend the remainder of the preseason fighting Kessler and Kizer for the second or third string job, and there’s also Hogan to consider in that discussion too.

Osweiler’s still young at only 26 years of age, and Hue Jackson has a knack for helping struggling quarterbacks find their niche.  What he has working against him is a checkered past on the field, and a contract the Browns may look to rid themselves of should he fail to produce the expected results during the preseason, which could explain why the Browns are starting him tonight against the Saints.

It’s unlikely that the Browns will name their starter until the final week of the preseason, so their fan base gets to enjoy a solid competition for the starting job.  But which of these top candidates will win the starting job, and can that player become the franchise quarterback the Browns have been coveting since 1999?