<
>

Thoughts on the early stages of another Browns quarterback competition

Editor's note: Tony Grossi covers the Cleveland Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR.

Takeaways from the early stages of another Browns quarterback competition …

1. A low bar: After his team’s second OTA practice, coach Hue Jackson said to the quarterback-centric media, “Hopefully, you can see that there is better quarterback play throughout practice. That is what we have to do. We have to keep getting better. That is one of my charges and [quarterbacks] Coach [David] Lee’s. We have to get this position better.” I would say the position group is ahead of where it was a year ago. But that should be the case in Year Two of Jackson’s program.

2. High hopes: Brock Osweiler looks like the best quarterback out there. At this stage, that is not unexpected. He’s a five-year veteran with 21 starts and 13 wins the past two years in Denver and Houston. At 6-8, he literally towers above his offensive line. He looks great in the pocket and can fling the ball with little effort. In the absence of a real pass rush, Osweiler should excel. “Yeah, he should,” Jackson affirmed. “At the same time, you can’t look at that and say ‘wow,’ just because he has been doing it, he should not be seen as a guy who can’t compete for the job. He has every opportunity like anybody else.”

3. What happens when: Of the four quarterbacks in the competition, Osweiler is the one with the least mobility. The other three have no problem executing Jackson’s zone-read options. Osweiler is an ostrich back there. Plus, his long arms and legs become problematical when the pass rush is live. He’ll need a lot of room to function in the pocket.

4. Cody’s new look: On Monday, left tackle Joe Thomas opined that Cody Kessler looked like he had more zip on the ball. On Wednesday, Jackson agreed. “I think Cody is stronger and the ball has more zip on it. He has worked extremely hard. What he is working at now is maintaining it and being able to do it week in and week out and day in and day out.” Kessler said his stronger throws comes from a workout regimen with QB guru Tom House and improved mechanics in his lower body. “Being able to get that power from your legs,” Kessler said. “A lot of my throws last year were completely upper body, not being able to get my legs into the throw. Just being able to stay back and push off your back plant foot is something that’s huge. The coolest thing is it feels I’m throwing harder but with a little less effort. It doesn’t feel like I’m putting as much strain on my arm. It feels a little more fluid instead of trying to strain.” Kessler said he also improved his nutrition to build muscle and reduce body fat. Overall, his weight is about the same.

5. Confidence boost: Kessler seemed to lose some confidence in his rookie season when Jackson yanked him with a 7-6 lead in the Baltimore game because he couldn’t – or wouldn’t – make the downfield throws that apparently were called. He said he now has the confidence to make all the throws. “In all of Phase 2 [of the offseason program], we threw a ton of deep balls … longer balls,” he said. “Being able to push it downfield and know you can get it there definitely helps your confidence level. Knowing you can make every throw, now you can focus on what’s going on with the defense, what are you going to call, changing the play.”

6. Kessler trivia: Kessler throws right-handed, yet plays golf and bats left-handed. “I don’t know why,” he said. “Everything else is right. I kick right, throw right, write with my right. And baseball and golf, I swing left. My brother’s the same way. Only thing he does with his left is eat food. I don’t know if my parents did something to us growing up, or what.”

7. Arm talent: The two best throws on the day were made by Osweiler, who dropped a dime into Corey Coleman’s hands over Jason McCourty down the left sideline, and by DeShone Kizer, who fired it to Rashard Higgins on a deep out to the right sideline. “It was a situation where I could have read the play differently and had a wide open guy on the backside, but I was able to let one rip,” Kizer said. “That’s all I’m trying to do right now, get the confidence to where I can just let one rip all the time. That’s a prime example of being completely content with the play and the defense and I can go out there and just let it rip. Then there’s other plays [where] I’m still fluttering around in the huddle and I don’t have that confidence to go let it rip. The more I learn the better I’ll continue to have those type of balls.”

8. Growing pains: For every good play Kizer makes, there might be two bad ones. Like the pass late and behind a receiver that was intercepted by safety Ibraheim Campbell. And the time defensive end Tyrone Holmes beat rookie left tackle Rod Johnson from Kizer’s blind side and knocked the ball loose on Kizer’s backward motion. “Throwing interceptions is part of [the learning process],” Kizer said. “ I’m still trying to figure this thing out. We were in a blitz period, they’re sending a couple different looks at me and I forced a ball I shouldn’t have forced. When I go back and watch film, I’ll bet you won’t see that same pick ever again.” Kizer has a good sense of his place in this competition so early in his first camp. “I think I’m fitting in fine,” he said. “I think the best thing for me is to not compare myself to those guys. I’m at a completely different level than they are. I’m in my third week here. This is all brand new to me.”

9. What about Hogan?: Kevin Hogan shared third-team snaps with Kizer behind Kessler, who went first, and Osweiler second. There is not much being said about Hogan early on. In the back of my mind is the comment from an NFL executive made at league meetings in March: “Why don’t they give Hogan more of a chance? We liked what we saw of him on film.”