BEREA (92.3 The Fan) – The Browns officially broke camp Thursday afternoon and now their attention shifts to the 19 games that are still on their schedule.
Head coach Hue Jackson feels much better about where his team is than he did a year ago.
“We are physically better than where we were a year ago. We are more mentally tougher. We are stronger,” Jackson said. “For the most part I think we have a good idea of who we are… Now it is just fine tuning some things over the next three weeks through these next three preseason games to get ready for the season.”
Before season No. 2 of the rebuild kicks off under Jackson, several questions still need to be answered.
First and foremost, who will start at quarterback Week 1?
Brock Osweiler appears to be the leader in the clubhouse after having a much better camp than Cody Kessler, who has been essentially demoted to running the scout team, but rookie DeShone Kizer has shown a great deal of progress over the last 3 weeks.
While no decision has been made, Jackson has been firm in that he won’t play Kizer until he’s certain the rookie can handle it.
“It is the raising of a quarterback,” Jackson said. “I don’t think you do things too soon. I think he has to earn the right if he can, and if he can’t, that’s OK. We are just going to keep pushing him and putting him in the right environment to keep getting him where he needs to be.”
Which receivers not named Corey Coleman and Kenny Britt will catch passes from whoever the starting QB will be?
“We have to step up there,” Jackson said.
Ricardo Louis, Jordan Payton and Rashard Higgins have shown flashes but also are still young and inconsistent. The 3 2016 draft picks appear to be locks to make the team leaving the sixth and final slot up for grabs between Josh Boyce, Rannell Hall, Jordan Leslie, Mario Alford, Richard Mulllaney and Rasheed Bailey.
Who will kick this year? Cody Parkey and rookie Zane Gonzalez have been going back and forth with no clear leader to win the gig and only 1 will survive.
That’s why the next 3 preseason games, which will be played in a span of 11 days starting on Monday are so critical.
“I think those questions will be answered within the next three weeks,” Jackson said. “I think we will be set by the time we hit the regular season. Obviously, the quarterback position is the biggest piece of it all.”
Camper of the Year – Matt Dayes may be close to earning himself a roster spot with a strong camp to be the third back behind Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson.
“He has flashed every day,” Jackson said. “He is really competitive. He is further along than even I thought he would be. He makes plays in the running game. He makes plays in the passing game. He is not afraid to pass-protect. He is a young man who demonstrates three-down ability.”
Dayes ran 3 times for 9 yards, including a 6-yard burst, in last Thursday’s preseason opener but he’ll need to put together a few stronger performances over the next 3 weeks to secure a job on the 53.
Shelton Hurt – Defensive tackle Danny Shelton suffered a knee injury during Wednesday’s practice and he will not play Monday night against New York the team said.
“Nothing that I think that is way over the top, but he will be week to week and we will get Danny back as soon as we can,” Jackson said after practice.
On Wednesday it was revealed that offensive linemen Joel Bitonio (knee) and Cameron Erving (calf) suffered injuries Tuesday and would miss time, including the Giants game.
All three players will be evaluated on a week-to-week basis but the team is hopeful that they’ll be ready for Week 1 Sept. 10 against the Steelers however ESPN’s Field Yates reported that Shelton is expected to miss 3-6 weeks, meaning he won’t be ready until mid September.
Shelton’s injury opens the door for Jamie Meder and Trevon Coley.
Injury Report – OL Joel Bitonio (knee), DL Caleb Brantley (shoulder), DB Ibraheim Campbell (concussion), OL Cam Erving (calf), OL Gabe Ikard (concussion), DL Cam Johnson (knee), DB Ed Reynolds II (knee), DL Danny Shelton (knee) and DB Howard Wilson (knee-PUP). Crowell/Orchard