With speedy wide receivers such as Corey Coleman and Kenny Britt, and a decent two-headed running back strategy in Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson Jr, the Cleveland Browns will have some talent on the offensive side of the ball to work with. As minicamp starts up, there are a lot of headlines that fans are looking forward to leading up to the regular season. One story that is getting a lot of attention is the quarterback battle going on between Cody Kessler, Brock Osweiler, and Deshone Kizer, who are all fighting to be named the starting quarterback for the franchise.
All of these guys have a lot of upside, and each have a case to why they should be named the week one starter, but after all the dust has settled, who should come out on top of this quarterback battle?
Drafted by the Browns in the third round (96th overall), Cody Kessler had a lot of upside coming out of the University Of Southern California. At USC, Kessler proved that he had the talent to become a solid quarterback prospect, throwing for 10,339 yards, 88 touchdowns, 19 interceptions, and finishing with a quarterback rating of 156.4. Even though he was drafted in the third round, coming into his rookie season, Kessler had the opportunity to compete to become the week one quarterback for the Cleveland Browns, only to lose out on the starting role to former Rookie of the Year Robert Griffin III, who the team signed earlier in the same offseason.
In week one of the 2016-17 campaign, Kessler got his chance to prove himself as the starting quarterback. During the season opener against the Philadelphia Eagles, Griffin III suffered a shoulder injury, which put him on the injured reserve list until week 14. While taking over for Griffin, Kessler threw for 1,380 yards, 6 touchdowns, 2 interceptions, and posted a passer rating of 92.3 in 8 starts. While he looked promising during his time as the starting quarterback, he was bothered by multiple concussions. Kessler suffered one against the Cincinnati Bengals when he was hit by Domata Peko, and another against the Pittsburgh Steelers, when he was hit by Lawrence Timmons.
In his eight starts, Kessler showed that he has potential to be a decent quarterback in this league. He has a strong arm, can make plays in the pocket, and has the arm strength to throw it down the field to any open receiver.
With every rookie quarterback, there will always be going to be flaws in ones play. With Kessler, he showed last season that when he is not given enough time in the pocket to throw the ball, he allows pass rushers to get to him mentally. A lot of this blame has to be pointed at the offensive line, who allowed Kessler to get sacked 24 times, and caused him to fumble the ball four times.
Another thing to look at is that last season in all eight starts that he started, Kessler contained a record of 0-8, as the team only went on to win one game all season. After seeing how the offensive line played last season, the team spent time this offseason in the free agency market, signing guard Kevin Zeitler, who played for rival the Cincinnati Bengals last season, and center J.C. Tretter, who played for the Green Bay Packers.
With an improved offensive line, having a short time to throw the ball in the pocket should be less of a worry for Kessler, as long as the linemen can keep him on his feet. Coming into training camp, Kessler has the advantage in this quarterback competition when it comes to knowing the playbook and having one year under the offense, whereas the other two have not played a single snap under the Hue Jackson offense yet.
With that in mind, having one year under his belt does not mean that Kessler will be handed the starting job right out of training camp. He will have to show improvement from last season, and from everything that has been said about him this offseason, Kessler has improved a lot. When it comes to all three quarterbacks, Kessler will have most likely have the first crack at earning the starting quarterback job.
Drafted by the Denver Broncos in the second round of the 2012 draft, Brock Osweiler has had a roller coaster start to his NFL career. While in Denver, he was supposed to be the future face of the franchise, taking over for an aging Peyton Manning. In his last year of his rookie contract, he got his best chance in terms of playing time, taking over for Manning, due to injury. During the 2015 offseason, Manning announced his retirement, and the Broncos were in a pickle with Osweiler, as he hit free agency market the same year.
Even though Osweiler had an underwhelming stint in Houston, he is still a decent quarterback. He has a strong arm and is accurate in the pocket. When he does not see an open wide receiver or does not time in the pocket, Osweiler can make plays with his feet. Seeing from what happened last season, Osweiler has some flaws in his game, including poor decision-making with the football. In his closing moment last season, he did not do well under pressure. Outside of all of that, he is a decent quarterback, who can put up decent numbers if he is protected, and has receivers that can be utilized.
Osweiler is not as talented as quarterbacks such as Andy Dalton, or even Joe Flacco, but he is someone that could do well under Jackson’s system. Out of all three quarterbacks fighting for the starting spot, Osweiler has the most experience when it comes to games started, as well as years in the league. Even though he is the most experienced quarterback out of the bunch, he will have to produce numbers through the preseason. If he can do that, and prove that he has what it takes to still be a decent quarterback in the league, Osweiler will have a great chance of being named the starting quarterback once week one hits.
Drafted in the second round of this past NFL Draft, which happened to be a quarterback-heavy draft class, Deshone Kizer has shown from what he did at Norte Dame that he has potential to become a franchise quarterback in the NFL. At Norte Dame, Kizer threw for 5,589 yards, 45 touchdowns, 18 interceptions, and finished with a quarterback rating of 148.75. Along with that, Kizer also rushed for 1,029 yards, and 17 touchdowns. With a quarterback class headlined by Mitchell Trubisky, Deshaun Watson, and Patrick Mahomes, it came to no surprise that Kizer was the fourth quarterback picked in the draft.
Even though he has yet to play a down in the NFL, there is a lot of hype around Kizer. During his time at Norte Dame, Kizer has shown that he contains a lot of attributes that a starting NFL quarterback needs. One concern surrounding him is if can he adapt to the pros, because during his NFL Combine, he had a poor performance in front of the scouts. On the other hand, Kizer made up for his performance at his Pro Day, where he showed better accuracy and footwork. Due to his production during offseason workouts, Kizer has been spending time with the first-team offense, which is something that needs to happen if you are looking to beat out Kessler and Osweiler, who both have been in the league longer than Kizer.
Out of all three quarterbacks, Kizer has the most upside and potential in my opinion. If he can show the same type of production that he has been showing during the workouts, and perform at a higher level than Osweiler and Kessler in training camp and through the preseason, he will have a good chance of winning the starting quarterback job.
At the end of the day, all three quarterbacks have a case of why they should be named the week one starter at quarterback. In my opinion, the winner of this quarterback competition is going to be Brock Osweiler. He has a lot to prove in Cleveland after what happened last season, and from everything that is coming out of Cleveland, Osweiler looks like he is impressing a lot of people.
Out of all three, Osweiler gives them the best chance right now at quarterback. If he turns out to show no improvement, the franchise could easily just turn to Kizer or Kessler, who are both young and inexperienced.