BEREA — The Cleveland Browns have taken a positive approach to improving their 1-15 record from a season ago. The Browns were one of the biggest winners on draft day and did an admirable job addressing some needs in free agency. Now it’s time to see if the offseason acquisitions will mesh with existing talent and help win games.
Judging by the first few days of training camp the team is showing promise.
The million dollar question is who will be the starting quarterback for the season opener: Cody Kessler, Brock Osweiler or rookie DeShone Kizer?
Kessler appears to have a leg up on the competition after spending a season in the system. He made some nice throws with touch and showed that he can push the ball down the field, connecting with receiver Kenny Britt for a touchdown. Kessler also had a few passes batted down at the line of scrimmage and forced an interception.
Coach Hue Jackson likely will have Kessler on a short leash as No. 1 throughout this evaluation process.
Osweiler prospered while substituting for future Hall Famer Peyton Manning during the Denver Broncos Super Bowl run two seasons ago. The quarterback’s performance earned him a monstrous free agent contact with the Houston Texans, when then shipped him off after one disappointing season.
Now in Cleveland, Osweiler finds himself in the midst of a three-way competition. Early on, he’s been precise with his intermediate passes and throwing into tight windows. He made nice reads while going through his progressions but did have a couple of miscues on timing routes. He was fairly accurate, poised in the pocket and showed a quick release.
Of the three quarterbacks, Kizer, the second-round draft pick from Notre Dame, shows the most promise. He matched the veterans throw-for-throw completing passes. Kizer stands tall and poised in the pocket when making his reads and shows good velocity on his throws, with a nice delivery. He possesses a big-league arm and demonstrated that ability by throwing passes that ripped through the gusty wind. The rookie also showed his athleticism, making plays with his feet.
Kizer fit some passes into tight widows and throws a nice deep ball, but he stared down his intended targets and held the ball too long at times. The talent is clearly visible, but there is much work to be done.
Too hot to handle
Perhaps the most intriguing rookie is tight end David Njoku who was selected 29th overall from Miami.
Njoku is very talented with tremendous upside. He’s explosive off the line with good acceleration and shows great leaping ability catching the ball at its highest point over defenders. However, the rookie has serious issues with dropped and fumbled passes so far.
Despite that, Njoku is taking a businesslike approach to the learning curve.
“The playbook is a lot more complex than college, but this is my job now,” he said. “Everyone is a professional here, everyone is getting paid to play, and at any moment you can get cut or fired. I’m going to make sure I work that much harder learning the playbook so I can be here as long as possible.”
The coaching staff is pleased with the progress of tight end Seth DeValve, who was injured much of last season. DeValve is not the most dazzling receiver but catches everything and knows how to get open. He’s a good blocker and plays well in line and flanked to the slot position.
DeValve did fumble once after being thumped by safety Derrick Kindred running up the sideline after a catch.
Overall, there is much for Cleveland fans to be charged about in the early stages of training camp.