Browns QB battle: Rising DeShone Kizer can, should pass 'safer' Cody Kessler
By Vinnie Iyer
The Browns have been deliberate during their latest offensive rebuild. It's time for them to let it rip and not hold back at QB.
That means giving rookie second-pick DeShone Kizer a real chance to start immediately as their hopeful future franchise passer.
There's no doubt Cleveland drafted Kizer because of his immense potential with his arm and athleticism, something he didn't fully reach while at Notre Dame under coach Brian Kelly. Talent-wise, even in his raw state, Kizer's versatile skill set is more appealing than what both Cody Kessler and Brock Osweiler can offer, now or later. The ability to quickly develop Kizer also is critical to tenure of coach Hue Jackson lasting beyond 2017.
Osweiler was an afterthought in the battle right after his trade from Houston, given the move was primarily made to give the Browns a second-round draft pick and give the Texans a way out of an expensive mistake. But perhaps humbled from his crash and burn in Houston, Osweiler has been impressive in the offseason, showing the accurate arm once coveted by the Broncos. He also has been wise to lean on the fact that, at 27 to be, he has a big experience edge on the other two. That includes being familiar with a Super Bowl-winning locker room vibe from Denver.
But more respect from veterans and looking the part, as Osweiler does with his 6-7 frame, can take him only so far.
The Browns' scheme and supporting cast is built better for a mobile passer than it is for a big statue. Osweiler also has struggled with standing too long in the pocket and not getting the ball out quickly, which doesn't mesh with Jackson's QB requirements.
Osweiler is pretty much there to push the youngsters in presence only. He's more down with Kevin Hogan, who's in this competition in name only. This is Kessler vs. Kizer, and the second-year man from USC can officially start to worry about the trajectory of the competition.
Kessler has shown only limited improvement in arm strength, still his biggest weaknesses. He can handle dinking, dunking and checking down, and he can remain efficient with his shorter throws, the way former Notre Dame QB Brady Quinn did. But the Browns need to make use of youthful field-stretchers Corey Coleman and David Njoku, and Kessler is deficient in pushing the ball downfield. Further hurting Kessler vs. both the 6-4 Kizer and Osweiler is his lack of ideal size, something he can't change.
That's why Kessler saw his hold on the first-team reps in OTAs and minicamp become more of a split with Kizer, with Kessler wilting. Kizer's football intelligence is doing him plenty of favors in picking up Jackson's offense quickly. He already has a better natural feel for the passing game, and every day in practice, he reportedly has gotten sharper with his rhythm and mechanics.
As the Browns are seeing Kessler and Kizer side-by-side, the rookie has made things even going into training camp. His upside already was undeniable in contrast to that of Kessler. While Osweiler is trying to re-grasp the basics, and while Kessler's throwing has hit a low ceiling, Kizer is showing a nice floor faster than expected.
Kizer is no stranger to the heat of a highly competitive preseason environment given his battles just to get on the field in South Bend. As the preseason pressure is dialed up, Kizer should respond well. Kelly not given him much of an endorsement likely also has accelerated Kizer's dedication to pleasing Jackson.