After yet another major injury scare in the NFL’s preseason – Odell Beckham, Jr. appears to be okay – debate about how much the preseason really matters will ramp up again.
For the Cleveland Browns however, they needed the preseason to figure out who their starting quarterback will be. The top two, Brock Osweiler and DeShone Kizer, haven’t separated themselves, though Browns coach Hue Jackson said after the game he has seen enough to make a decision and plans to do so this week.
Hosting the New York Giants on Monday night, the Browns started Osweiler. He has started both preseason games, and that might indicate he’ll be Jackson’s choice to start the regular-season opener too. However, Osweiler was predictably atrocious for his two series on Monday. Errant on basic throws and unable to identify where his protection keys came from, he finished the game 6 of 8 for 25 yards and an interception. One of his incomplete passes was a high pass to an open David Njoku. It’s precisely the type of throw that an adequate quarterback makes in the NFL, and one that Osweiler has missed on time and time again.
With that in mind, it may come as a surprise that before the game, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Osweiler has won over the veterans in the locker room and said he’s the “clear favorite” to start. That’s a bit of a surprise considering Osweiler is coming off a season for the Houston Texans in which he averaged a league-worst 5.8 yards per attempt.
It is also a bit surprising considering Cleveland invested a second-round draft choice in 21-year-old quarterback DeShone Kizer. After a stellar debut last week (11 of 18, 184 yards, one touchdown), Kizer impressed once again during his four series. Perhaps he wasn’t as sharp as he was in Cleveland’s first game, but he did enough to state his case as the Browns present, as well as their future.
The rookie amassed 84 yards passing, along with 35 yards and a score on the ground. It’s worth noting that he did this without the protection of top offensive linemen Joe Thomas or Joel Bitonio, and was playing against the Giants’ first- and second-string defense. Kizer also had an interception in the second half that will not show in the box score because it was wiped out due to a penalty.
Kizer, despite being a big project, is a far more dynamic scrambler and runner than his counterpart. His 18 rushing touchdowns at Notre Dame rank second in school history, even though he played in just 25 games. He still has plenty of work to do in terms of knowing when to tuck it and run – as well as simply when to throw the ball away – but it’s clear that Kizer’s ability to extend plays is a legitimate component to his game.
Through two preseason games, Kizer has led nine offensive series, which have resulted in 24 points. Osweiler has captained six drives, resulting in no points. Kizer has played better, but Osweiler has started both preseason games. Cody Kessler, who started eight games as a rookie last season, is still around too, though if Jackson has made his decision already, it’s hard to believe it’s Kessler.
The 2-0 Browns will play in Tampa Bay in the third preseason game, generally the week where we learn who the starters will be for the regular season. According to Jackson, we should find out before that third preseason game who Cleveland plans to start at quarterback when the games count.
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