BEREA, Ohio | Brock Osweiler has risen from trade throw-in to preseason starter.
The Browns’ quarterback saga has produced another surprise.
Osweiler was picked by coach Hue Jackson over Cody Kessler, rookie DeShone Kizer and Kevin Hogan to start Thursday’s exhibition opener against the New Orleans Saints in what will be an important stage in a QB competition that’s midway through its second week and with no end in sight.
Osweiler, who started 14 games for Houston last season, has not taken any snaps with the starting offense during camp, but he’ll be first on the field Thursday with a chance to impress Jackson and potentially win the full-time starting job.
It’s a stunning ascension for Osweiler, who arrived via trade in March when the Browns acquired him and his guaranteed $16 million contract simply so they could get a 2018 second-round pick.
But the 26-year-old is still around, and he could wind up beating out Kessler and Kizer, the team’s presumed future QB, as the team’s full-time starter.
“This league gives you opportunities,” Osweiler said. “Sometimes, you don’t know when they’re going to come. Sometimes, you do know when they’re going to come. I think the key is making the most out of that opportunity, and if you do, the rest will take care of itself.”
Jackson has said the starting quarterback in the exhibition opener won’t necessarily be the one who starts the Sept. 10 season opener against Pittsburgh.
Still, Osweiler has impressed the Browns, who are coming off a 1-15 season, with his attitude, work ethic and leadership. He went 8-6 during his one season with Houston but didn’t connect with coach Bill O’Brien, and the Texans were eager to move him before striking the deal with Cleveland.
There’s no guarantee the Browns won’t shop him, too. Miami coach Adam Gase, who coached Osweiler in Denver, reportedly reached out to Cleveland last week after Ryan Tannehill injured his knee.
Osweiler isn’t taking any extra satisfaction in working his way onto the depth chart and now up it.
“No gratification,” he said following Monday’s pre-practice walk-through. “Bottom line, a lot of work still needs to be done and I think this football team knows that. Coach Jackson is preaching it every single day. This is just one step. There’s a lot of chemistry to be built. There are a lot of fine details that need to be cleaned up through meetings and more practice sessions.”
Osweiler played the best of Cleveland’s four QBs on Friday night in a scrimmage at FirstEnergy Stadium. He led his team to two field goals, but Jackson called the overall play of his quarterbacks “spotty” and said he was anxious for one of his QBs to separate themselves from the pack.
Kizer, who seemed to have closed the gap on Kessler and Osweiler in camp, said it’s critical for one of the quarterbacks to step forward.
“It’s very vital,” said Kizer, the former Notre Dame starter. “There needs to be a pecking order in order for the leadership to happen the way it needs to. … Brock was named that guy, and this week he’s already out there running things the way he needs to run them as a true one quarterback and if that guy does happen to change to a new guy, then that guy needs to step in that week and treat it as if it’s his team.”
Kessler has had a disappointing camp despite showing better arm strength and being in great shape. He went 0-8 as a rookie starter last season when he got pushed into the lineup because of injuries to Robert Griffin III and Josh McCown.
Kessler came into camp as the man to beat, with Jackson rewarding him for a strong offseason by giving him the bulk of the snaps with the starting offense. However, he’s been inconsistent and Osweiler’s start on Thursday could be viewed as an indictment on Kessler’s play.
Kessler doesn’t see Osweiler being chosen over him as a setback.
“It’s just another opportunity and obviously coach Jackson’s decision and the only way you can control things like that is how you play on the field,” he said.
“That’s something I was always stuck with: control what you can control.”