CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – The Browns’ quarterback competition has hit the ‘worst case scenario’ stage as the clock is about to strike midnight on it.
Head coach Hue Jackson all but begged Cody Kessler, and then Brock Osweiler to win the job and neither seized the moment. DeShone Kizer may have, by default through the first 2 preseason games.
As for the competition and who will be named the starter for the upcoming season, it ends soon.
“I want to put this to bed by Wednesday,” Jackson said. “I would like to put this thing to bed and just move forward in that direction, and whatever decision we make, we make. We want to make the best one for the Browns.”
Jackson has made it clear on multiple occasions that there is no rush to start Kizer in Week 1 but Kessler and Osweiler might be making it a necessity, if not the best – or only – option.
“I think it is good probably for the football team to know who their quarterback is going to be for Week 1 so they can rally around him and also that quarterback can start building chemistry with that first string offense,” Osweiler said. “I think that is extremely important but no relief. At the end of the day, I have no regrets towards anything. I have given it everything I have had from studying in April and May to OTAs and training camp and preseason games. We are very fortunate to play for a great football coach here, and I know he will make a great decision.”
Osweiler had a brief evening of work.
He was pulled after 2 offensive series that saw him complete 6 of 8 passes for 25 yards. His first series featured a holding penalty on right guard Kevin Zeitler on a second-and-7, an illegal contact on third down for a fresh set of downs and a Rod Johnson, who was in at left tackle, false start.
His second series ended thanks to a tipped ball by Giants defensive end Olivier Vernon that was intercepted by Jason Pierre-Paul.
“It was just a great play by the defense. Sometimes, unfortunately, they win,” Osweiler said. “Those guys are very talented on the other side of the ball, as well, and I think one of their good players got a hand up and was able to tip the ball and make a great play for their team.”
Other than completing a bunch of dump offs and screen passes, Osweiler did nothing to definitively settle the debate. In fairness he was also pulled quickly which was more a reflection of Jackson’s desire to play Kizer early than Osweiler’s performance.
“That was my plan going into this game,” Jackson said.
The competition was a bit tougher for Kizer this time around.
“There is the guy with the name of J.P.P. standing across from me. That was definitely an eye opener to be out there with him,” Kizer said.
It showed as Kizer struggled with timing and pocket presence and he didn’t muster much in 2 series against New York’s top defenders. But he still managed to complete 8 of 13 passes for 74 yards and 77.1 rating. He also ran 5 times for 35 yards, including a 1-yard touchdown with 1:16 left in the first half and a 10-3 lead. He was also sacked twice.
“I completely trust in the process they set in front of me,” Kizer said. “If Wednesday is the day, it is the day. I know that for me, it’s just about getting better, whether I’m the second string guy, third string guy, first string guy.”
The TD came as a result of a short field thanks to cornerback Jason McCourty tearing the football out of Giants receiver Sterling Shepard’s hands to give the Browns the ball at the New York 28.
Kizer got bailed out of a bad decision early in the third quarter thanks to a defensive holding penalty that cost the Giants an interception on their sideline. He capitalized by rolling off a 15-play, 68-yard drive to move from their own 8 into field goal range for a 39 yard kick and a 10-3 lead.
The most important area Kizer needs to correct is protecting himself.
“He said he wanted to make sure that he ran into somebody so he could see what it felt like. I go, ‘Nuh uh, that is over with. Get down,’” Jackson said. “He has to learn how to slide. I don’t care how big you are. I have always said these quarterbacks only have so many hits in their bodies so he has to protect himself that way.”
While it’s not a pure apples-to-apples comparison especially regarding the level of competition faced, the facts are these: in 6 offensive series this preseason Osweiler hasn’t accounted for a single scoring drive while Kizer has accounted for 4 of them – 3 touchdowns and a field goal – in 9 series.
Jackson refused to tip his hand which way he’s leaning but there isn’t a single quarterback that has separated himself in a positive way in camp or the preseason.
Good luck Hue.