The wait is over. Football is back … sort of.
The Cleveland Browns open up their 2017 preseason schedule with a tilt against the New Orleans Saints at First Energy Stadium on Thursday night.
And while not much can be gleaned from the first preseason game due to the teams’ starters barely playing at all, that doesn’t mean there aren’t some things to focus on as the Browns begin their bid to escape the AFC North basement.
1. Brock Osweiler’s play at quarterback.
Osweiler was named the starting quarterback by coach Hue Jackson on Monday, leapfrogging incumbent second-year player Cody Kessler. The move to drop Kessler isn’t a total surprise because of Kessler’s poor play this summer. Osweiler has impressed coaches since he walked in the building and his experience in Denver and Houston is paying off against three other less experienced signal-callers.
However, Jackson made it clear one of the deciding factors in making Osweiler the starter is that Kessler and rookie DeShone Kizer can get more work in this first preseason game. There is plenty of time for Osweiler to lose the starting spot before Week 1, so his limited performance in this game is still important.
2. How dialed in will the defense be?
The Browns brought in defensive coordinator Gregg Williams to improve a defense that lacked the ability to stop the run or hold a lead during two years under former head coach Mike Pettine (a defensive coach) and last year under former defensive coordinator Ray Horton. Williams is certainly a vast change from those two coaches. But how will his coaching style show up in the preseason? Will the defense be more aggressive or will Williams save a lot of his more advanced packages for when the games really matter?
3. How will Kizer fare?
Kizer is listed third in the depth chart for this game. Meaning that if Osweiler gets one possession as the starter, Kessler should play most of the first and second quarter. Kizer likely will either come in sometime in the second quarter or start the second half of the game against second and third string players. This is a chance for Kizer to show how much he has learned so far this summer and how his talent matches up against backups.
If he does well, it would certainly boost his chances of starting sooner rather than later. If not, then it will show that he does indeed still need a lot of work before Jackson can turn the offense over to him officially.
The end result of this game doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things, but this is an important step in the Browns’ rebuilding process this season.