The most consistent component of the post-1999 Cleveland Browns has been an inconsistency at quarterback; including competitions for the starting spot most every offseason. Head coach Hue Jackson differentiated himself from previous regimes when he made a proclamation about the starting quarterback rather than giving platitudes about the openness of the job. At the Browns official rookie mini-camp, head coach Hue Jackson said that the second-year quarterback, Cody Kessler, will be given the keys to the offense this fall. The other three quarterbacks on the roster (DeShone Kizer, Brock Osweiler, Kevin Hogan) have to knock him off that starting hill for Kessler not to be the starting quarterback Week 1.
Here’s what he had to say about Kessler, per clevelandbrowns.com’s Patrick Maks:
“Cody has done a great job. That’s really why I brought his name up first. He has really improved. He has worked his tail off. He deserves the right and the opportunity to walk into this building and walk out there first. They have to take it from him.”
Unlike both Brock Osweiler and rookie DeShone Kizer, Kessler lacks the prototypical size and arm strength of a starting quarterback. When the Browns acquired Osweiler in a package that routed a Texans second-round pick to the Browns, many expected him to be either released or traded immediately. Whether it was due to not being able to find a trade partner or not wanting to let him go, the tall quarterback is now involved in the competition as well. With the most starting experience of any of the four quarterbacks on the roster, Osweiler has had plenty of time to prove that he can be one of the 32 starting quarterbacks in the NFL. But, he hasn’t despite being the only quarterback on the roster who has won a game.
Kessler may not have elite arm strength, but he proved during his rookie season that he can be a sufficient quarterback that the team can count on. Him not throwing the deep ball that much wasn’t always his fault. There was blame in it for his wide receivers too. The Browns were a wretched 1-15 and 0-8 in Kessler starts. But, Kessler had one of the best per game rookie years a quarterback has had over the past few seasons. So good that some of his stats were the best any rookie has had since 2006.
Browns QB Cody Kessler posted an 80.6 adjusted completion percentage under pressure in 2016, best by a rookie QB since 2006. pic.twitter.com/BSIDswwbfO
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) May 14, 2017
Jackson may love Kizer’s size and arm strength, but as a rookie, he needs plenty of time to both develop and to learn the NFL game and playbook. If possible, the head coach should allow his rookie to not play any significant time in 2017 and instead learn on the sidelines, both from his teammates and on the headset.
With a revamped offensive line, Kessler has a good chance to improve on his rookie season, one that he totaled 100-plus ratings in three games and finished with a 92.3 quarterback rating. He also completed 65.6 percent of his passes for 1,380 yards, six touchdowns and only two interceptions. While he didn’t take many chances downfield, he has worked on his arm strength this offseason and should be more comfortable with the offense, which could add another weapon to his arsenal.
Kessler may have the keys to the offense now, but Jackson added some fuel to fire competition from those climbing that hill. He wants the other quarterbacks to take their best shot at ripping the job away from the second-year quarterback.
“They better take it from him because I know him – he’s not going to give it up. It will be fun. That is what competition is all about. Until someone takes something from someone and shows that they can do it at a high level play in and play out, then we have to keep going in the direction where we’re traveling.”
Kessler may or may not be the franchise quarterback of the future, but he seems to be the answer in 2017. With the Browns improvements around him along with his own improvements following his rookie campaign, he could have another impressive season and prove to Jackson and company that he can be counted on going forward.