Whenever a team is going into the preseason without a known starting quarterback, the quarterback battle and the discussion around it tends to dominate the conversation. For the Browns, the opener against the Saints was no different; Brock Osweiler was named the starter, Cody Kessler played some and then DeShone Kizer came in and impressed in the second half.
Each of the Browns quarterbacks saw 10 or more attempts: Osweiler threw 14, completed six and Kessler threw 10, completing five. DeShone Kizer threw 18 passes, completed 11 for 184 yards and a touchdown (another deep ball of his ended on the one-yard line).
— cover32 Browns (@cover32_CLE) August 11, 2017
Kizer looked good, especially compared to the lackluster performances Kessler and Osweiler debuted. Despite that, Osweiler is still starting against the Giants, although Jackson and company have said that Kizer is likely to see more playing time this game.
What has been made clear throughout training camp is that Cody Kessler is likely not going to start for the Browns this season. All the recent news coming out of camp makes the quarterback battle sound like it’s either Osweiler or Kizer, with Osweiler having the heavy advantage at this time. Joe Thomas even came out earlier this week and said that he thinks the Browns are grooming Brock Osweiler to start. This game against the Giants is a chance for each of these players to prove that they can lead this Browns team.
What to Look For
When watching these quarterbacks compete, look for adjustments made/not made at the line of scrimmage. This is often an indicator of how comfortable a player is in an offense; in the draft Kizer was known as a remarkable athlete but not as NFL ready as some of the other options. His competence reading the defense at the line is going to be indicative of how well he’s adjusting to the NFL.
Kizer also showed some good pocket awareness last week, so watch to see if he can keep making the right moves in and out of the pocket. It’s always a good sign when a young quarterback knows how and when to move.
When Osweiler is on the field for the Browns, take note of his average depth of target. Osweiler has the arm strength to get it done if he needs to, but he often takes the check down passes and doesn’t extend plays to the extent that the Browns would like him to. It’s looking more and more likely that Osweiler will start the season for the Browns, but if he wants to hold onto that job past mid-October he needs to start making plays.
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Players to Watch
While Crowell may be the lead back in Cleveland, Duke Johnson is going to have a role to play in this offense especially in the pass catching game. He should see some opportunities to show off his hands and develop some in-game chemistry with the quarterbacks.
Calhoun was a pleasant surprise for the Browns last season, garnering three interceptions and breaking up 11 passes in his rookie year. Buddy-Calhoun is going to be working in the secondary with Joe Haden, Jamar Taylor and Jason McCourty, so while he may not get a ton of playing time this season, he’s looking like some home grown talent that the Browns are growing.
Peppers has always been a unique player to watch, and watching how defensive coordinator Greg Williams uses him in the new Browns defense is going to be important to how this Browns defense shifts and changes as the season draws closer. With injuries to the secondary, Peppers is going to have to step up sooner than the Browns anticipated.
The Browns are going to have their offense tested against this Giants defense early. It’ll be interesting to see how Osweiler moves this first team offense against the Giants first team defense. He struggled last week against the Saints, and the Giants are a far superior defense.
The Browns offense will probably struggle to move the ball up and down, but the defense should have some opportunities to get some pressure on the quarterback. Look for the defense to step up and make plays for the Browns when the offense can’t.