Listening to Joe Thomas heap praise on Brock Osweiler on Wednesday morning, it sounded like Hue Jackson's starting quarterback dilemma was a foregone conclusion.
But the Cleveland Browns head coach was quick to remind his star left tackle that he's the one who gets to decide who the team's starting signal-caller will be.
For now, he's adhering to Thomas' unsolicited advice, giving Osweiler the starting nod for the Browns' Monday night preseason battle against the New York Giants. It will mark the former Houston Texan's second consecutive start for Cleveland after his underwhelming 6-for-14, 42-yard outing in the team's preseason opener against the New Orleans Saints last Thursday.
"“I still think right now where we are that Brock deserves the opportunity to walk out there first," Jackson said. But the second-year Browns head coach also added that his decision "doesn’t mean anything for the regular season."
Which is what makes the move Jackson did make to his quarterback depth chart on Monday so intriguing.
After an impressive preseason debut, which included throwing a game-winning 45-yard touchdown pass on the team's final offensive drive, rookie DeShone Kizer has been promoted from third to second-string. Jackson made the move with the intent of getting the second-round draft pick out of Notre Dame more meaningful reps, after he largely faced the Saints' third-string defense throughout the second half last Thursday.
"That is why I am going to put him out there second," Jackson admitted.
Perhaps more importantly, Jackson acknowledged that while he hasn't decided on a starting quarterback for the Browns' regular season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sept. 10 just yet, he'd like to do so soon. And in order to do so, he'll place a heavy emphasis on the Browns' third preseason game, an Aug. 26 date with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which will serve as a "dress rehearsal" for the team.
Not only will that double as Thomas' -- the bedrock of Cleveland's offensive line -- preseason debut, but according to Jackson, whichever Browns quarterback starts against Tampa Bay "has a very good chance of trotting out there against the Steelers.”
It's telling that Jackson hasn't committed to Osweiler being that quarterback just yet -- and perhaps even more telling that Kizer is now on the rise.
Jackson still has a decision to make and what happens on Monday night will likely play a big part in it. But it's not tough to tell which way this thing appears to be trending.