CLEVELAND - In the March press release announcing their trade with the Houston Texans, the Cleveland Browns touted the two draft picks they had just acquired before ever mentioning quarterback Brock Osweiler.
But on Monday, Osweiler finally received top billing in a Browns' press release when the team announced him as its starting quarterback for Thursday's preseason opener against the New Orleans Saints.
“A lot goes into our evaluation but it’s always going to be about efficiently and effectively running the offense," Cleveland head coach Hue Jackson said in a statement. "You want your starter to be able to do that despite any circumstance. Brock hasn’t really gotten any first team reps and this will give him that chance."
The former Houston Texans signal-caller's promotion, however, seems to be more indicative of the play of his competition than it does Osweiler himself. That rings particularly true for second-year quarterback Cody Kessler, who Osweiler will be replacing on Cleveland's starting quarterback.
Although Osweiler has been steady in training camp, he's hardly been spectacular. And at times, he's shown glimpses of being the same turnover-prone passer who threw 16 interceptions in 15 games with the Texans a year ago.
Only Osweiler's shortcomings have become easier to overlook, given the competition -- or lack thereof -- he's faced. Although accurate, Kessler has failed to move the ball downfield on a consistent basis with the team's first-team offense. That was particularly apparent in the team's Orange & Brown Scrimmage on Friday, when the offense failed to score a single touchdown.
While that also reflects poorly on Osweiler -- as well as DeShone Kizer and fourth-stringer Kevin Hogan -- it was Kessler who had the benefit of working alongside the first-team offense for the majority of the scrimmage.
Osweiler didn't win the Browns' starting quarterback job -- for now -- so much as Kessler lost it. Cleveland's new starter is coming off a season in which Pro Football Focus ranked him 32nd out of 34 qualifying quarterbacks and a scrimmage where he failed to lead a single touchdown drive. And yet, you'd be hard-pressed to argue Jackson didn't make the right call in promoting Osweiler after less than two weeks' worth of practices.
As for Kizer, the second-round rookie very much remains in the mix in Cleveland's quarterback competition, despite currently remaining relegated to third-string. But Monday's announcement was a reminder of just how far he still has to go until Jackson can justify leaning on his upside.
For now, Osweiler's the man -- although you wouldn't necessarily know it based on his play. Rather, he seems to be the lesser of the Browns' unappealing options, which says more about Kessler at this point than it does anyone else.
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