Editor's note: Tony Grossi covers the Cleveland Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR.
Two DeShone Kizer “bombs” of 52 and 45 yards in the first preseason game – one for the game-winning touchdown – have reshaped the ESPN Cleveland Browns Quarterback Tracker.
With one preseason game to go before coach Hue Jackson’s preferred timetable to name his starting quarterback, Kizer has bolted into a virtual dead heat with Brock Osweiler.
Cody Kessler, the OTAs and early training camp frontrunner, has fallen off the pace.
Singling out the two long Kizer completions that helped produce a 20-14 victory over the Saints on Thursday night doesn’t entirely do the rookie quarterback justice.
Kizer made two impressive intermediate throws to extend the game-winning drive. One was an 18-yard completion to Richard Mullaney to the left sideline on second-and-17, and the other was a 22-yard connection with Rannell Hall in seven man zone coverage on third-and-24.
While Kizer did his damage against Saints backups in the second half, Osweiler struggled against mostly first-teamers in the first quarter – which was his first play time with his own starters since being promoted by Jackson three days earlier.
All of which has Jackson pressing the brakes on the rush to give Kizer the starting job. It may seem inevitable, but Jackson asserted on Friday that even a Kizer start aganst the New York Giants on Aug. 21 is not imminent.
“I just think that it is too soon,” the coach said. “I don’t feel very comfortable, and that is why I haven’t made that decision.
“I think there is a process to all of this. I think we are just in the beginning phases of it for him. You want to do what is best for your team and for your players.
“It is not just because people see a bomb that is thrown down the field for 45 yards. There is more to playing quarterback than just that. We are not there yet. We are going to keep working at this thing, and we are going to continue to coach all of these guys to get better.
“When it is the right time to make the decision that we feel is right to say, ‘This is the quarterback of the Cleveland Browns for 2017,’ then we will make that decision.”
Until then, the quarterback tracker will continue to gauge the competition, dispensing 100 total points to the four quarterbacks to portend the eventual starter. Realistically, it is now a two-man race.
1. Brock Osweiler, 45 points.
Dealt a short hand when left tackle Joe Thomas was held out and replaced by Cam Erving, he suffered five offensive penalties on his first three series with the first team. He misfired high and wide at least three times in a ragged debut. When he finally patched together some rhythm, receiver Kenny Britt failed to get his foot down running through the end zone after a catch, and then struggled to beat his man off the line of scrimmage twice inside the 10. His 50.3 passer rating and 63 total yards generated on four possession was truly a group effort.
2. DeShone Kizer, 44 points.
Jackson disclosed he struggled reciting play-calls in the huddle in the heat of his first NFL game action and made some errors executing plays at the line of scrimmage. Ultimately, his innate throwing ability pulled him through, but he also showed good pocket awareness and influenced the 52-yard pass play with a nice pump-fake that froze the safety, enabling Richard Mullaney to accelerate open. He should get bumped up to the second team in practice this week.
3. Cody Kessler, 7 points.
Other than a completion of 31 yards to Josh Boyce, his passes gained 9 yards, 3, 2, and 2. He produced 49 yards offense in 14 plays on three possessions. A defensive turnover gave him the ball at the Saints’ 21-yard line, and he was able to convert it into a touchdown on a 1-yard run by Matthew Dayes after a pass interference penalty in the end zone. His deep dive of 23 points is the equivalent of a stock market crash. The question now is whether Jackson will formally demote him to No. 3 in practice and shut down his game reps.
4. Kevin Hogan, 4 points.
He didn’t play against the Saints and has had his practice reps reduced to a precious few. He believes he is a much better quarterback than a year ago as a result of experiencing Jackson’s offseason program, but has had little opportunity to show it. His turn may come up in the Giants game.