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Decision to start Brock Osweiler says little about DeShone Kizer


Brock Osweiler won the right to start the preseason opener partly by default and partly because of his performance.

Osweiler was acquired by the Browns as a throw-in on a salary/contract-dump trade with the Texans, who gave the Browns a 2018 second-round pick to take Osweiler and his $16 million salary off their hands. (Cleveland also received a 2017 sixth-round pick in the deal, while the Texans got a 2017 fourth-round pick.) The Browns had the salary-cap room and wanted the high draft pick. Since Osweiler's arrival, however, the QB has done everything that has been asked of him in addition to being positive and professional.

While he hasn't set new standards for the quarterback position during practice, he hasn't hurt himself, either. Meanwhile, Cody Kessler has struggled and DeShone Kizer is working to break through the rookie barrier.

In Friday's scrimmage, Osweiler helped his cause more than the other quarterbacks. In Saturday's practice, he did the same.

This is by no means the equivalent of promoting Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers to the first-team offense. Osweiler's career was on life support in March, and he has to back up his coach's faith in a game setting. But take a step back and look at the big picture. Osweiler is the most experienced quarterback on the depth chart, and he has won the most games in the NFL. He has seen the most coverages, defenses and formations.

After acquiring Osweiler in March, the Browns' initial plan was to accept the high pick in 2018 and trade the QB. But they couldn't make a deal, and Osweiler showed up to the offseason program ready and willing to work. Later in the offseason, Jackson admitted Osweiler had surprised him and overcome many of the negative perceptions surrounding him after a poor 2016 season.

Starting Osweiler against New Orleans gives the quarterback a chance to secure the starting job. Jackson said on Thursday that if Osweiler plays poorly in this week's matchup, someone else will get a chance. If he moves the ball, he will keep the job.

Jackson's decision to start Osweiler may say the most about Kessler, who will follow Osweiler on Thursday. Although Kessler has taken first-team reps through OTAs, minicamp and camp, Osweiler will still make the start against the Saints.

Kessler has every intangible a team could want in a quarterback: He works, he prepares, he studies, he cares. But he seems to have lost confidence since his initial starts as a rookie, and that, combined with questionable arm strength, can lead to trouble.

Kessler can re-establish himself as the starter, but he has to play better.

As for Kizer, who will be third on the depth chart, this move says little about his potential or his future. Kizer entered camp as a rookie who had a lot to learn, and everyone agreed he was not ready to start a game.
 The hope for the fans -- and probably the team -- was that he would emerge as a starter. He did make throws that caught his coaches' attention. The problem was, there weren't enough of those throws: He unofficially completed 52 percent of his passes in 11-on-11 drills during camp.

During a camp scrimmage, Kizer showed that it was probably wise to put the brakes on expectations for the rookie. He has managed some good plays, but he has had his fair share of poor plays, too. The overall feel is that his performance has not match his potential.

The argument could be made that a team expected to finish below .500 should play the rookie right away. That's not a crazy thought, but the rookie has to be ready. If a team is going to struggle regardless, it's far better to play a rookie a couple of games too late than it is to force him in too early.

The season is long, and Kizer will get the chance to show what he can do. He will get opportunities.

As for Osweiler, he has the chance to complete quite a journey -- from big-money free-agent signee, to unwanted quarterback, to potential trade asset, to the guy with a chance to be the opening-day starter (despite not earning a single rep with the starters in the spring or camp).

Osweiler is the Browns' best option at this point, but it does not end the quarterback discussion. Jackson stressed that any of the three QBs could start in the season opener against Pittsburgh, and things have to play out in the preseason. But Osweiler has the chance to secure the starting job.

All he has to do is prove his coach right and play well.