There have been interesting signals from the Cleveland Browns about their starting quarterback situation.
Coach Hue Jackson said the competition to start in Week 1 remains open, but he also said he'd judge who starts the preseason opener with the thought that the quarterback chosen could be the guy in the regular season.
With that in mind, the job is Brock Osweiler's to lose. If he goes out against the Saints on Thursday and leads the offense sufficiently, he'll be the opening-day starter.
What he has to do Thursday night is perform like he did in practice on Monday and Tuesday. Once he was announced as the starter against the Saints, there was a bounce in his step and a new vigor in his game. He completed passes -- he completed passes! -- downfield to several receivers, and while there were mistakes, he was a far better player this week than anyone had been to that point. It's probably a 75 percent chance that Osweiler keeps the job. He loses it by laying an egg and if ...
DeShone Kizer plays lights-out. If Kizer raises his game, Jackson may revisit the notion that it might be best to see Kizer from the get-go. The Browns want to win by running the ball and playing defense, so in that scenario and culture a rookie could function.
Kizer could thrust himself back into the picture by playing well against New Orleans. If he does, Kizer could get more practice reps the following week and a start against the Giants in the second preseason game. Kizer can't play the way he did in the Browns' recent scrimmage if he wants to earn that start; he has to show he belongs against the Saints.
However, expecting this to happen is to expect Kizer to change radically from the way he's been in practice and the scrimmage. Every day he had the one throw that caught attention, but he also was inaccurate and at times indecisive. The scrimmage put the brakes on his fast-tracking, but, as Jackson said, sometimes teams and players struggle in practice but have it come together in games.
It would be a surprise to see Kizer suddenly change. Every indication shows that while he has talent and ability, he's still young and inexperienced and needs time. There was a reason he went in the second round and not the first, a reason coach Brian Kelly of Notre Dame said Kizer made a mistake coming out a year early. Kizer can grow and learn while watching Osweiler, and the Browns can periodically reassess when it's best to play the rookie -- perhaps the first time after the opening four games.
Cody Kessler saw his second-team snaps reduced on Tuesday, with Osweiler getting the starter's reps and Kizer getting many of the backup reps. Kessler will follow Osweiler on Thursday, but his chances of winning the job diminish as he struggles. Kessler insists he's as confident as ever, but it's not showing on the field as he's taking sacks, relying too much on checkdowns and drop-offs, and not getting the ball down the field. Jackson gave Kessler every chance. The result is he's now the backup.
He also is a bit the victim (for lack of a better word) of being overdrafted. The Browns shocked many by taking Kessler in the third round, well ahead of most projections. That raised expectations for him, especially when Jackson uttered his famous "trust me" line regarding Kessler. Had he been taken in the sixth or seventh round as projected, he'd be viewed in a completely different way. Had that happened, Kessler probably would be looked at the same way that Kevin Hogan is viewed: a guy who played in the Pac-12, fighting to make the team, and has a long-shot chance to be the starter.
At this point, neither Kessler nor Hogan seems to have a chance to be the opening-day starter, barring injury to the players ahead of them.