What I saw at camp

The Browns’ wor­ri­some QB sit­u­a­tion tops John Kryk’s ob­ser­va­tions from his NFL pre-sea­son work­outs tour

Ottawa Sun - - SPORTS - JOHN KRYK

Af­ter blow­ing through six NFL train­ing camps in six days, and driv­ing some 2,500 km in be­tween, one ob­ser­va­tion lingers over all oth­ers.

The Cleve­land Browns will be a punch­ing bag again in 2017 un­less one of their four ros­tered quar­ter­backs im­proves ap­pre­cia­bly by month’s end.

Granted, it was only one prac­tice, not even a week into camp. But last Satur­day on the grass prac­tice fields be­hind team head­quar­ters in Berea, Ohio, the four­some — Cody Kessler, Brock Osweiler, DeShone Kizer and Kevin Ho­gan — looked mighty medi­ocre.

I’ve seen 15 of the league’s 32 clubs prac­tise at train­ing camp over the past six years of tour­ing — 37 stops in all — and I don’t re­mem­ber a worse col­lec­tive per­for­mance by any team’s quar­ter­backs than Cleve­land’s last Satur­day.

Maybe it was just an aber­ra­tion. Maybe they were rat­tled by the fact is was the first prac­tice of the year in pads, which fea­tured ac­tual to-the­ground tack­ling for a time — some­thing you al­most never see any­more at NFL prac­tices. And maybe the fact that de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Gregg Williams’ charges were lay­ing some se­ri­ous wood dis­rupted QB/re­ceiver tim­ing; de­fen­sive back Briean Bod­dyCal­houn ac­tu­ally knocked re­ceiver Ran­nell Hall’s hel­met right off, in one such full-speed col­li­sion early in prac­tice.

But quar­ter­backs, as al­ways, were spared from such con­tact. And far too many of Kessler’s, Osweiler’s, Kizer’s and Ho­gan’s passes were dread­ful.

I didn’t keep count but I doubt the four­some, com­bined, com­pleted even half their throws in 11-on-11 pe­ri­ods. And most routes were ba­sic in con­cept, and short in length: Screens to run­ning backs, tight-end crossers at line­backer depth, safety-valve dump-offs to the flats, and quick wide­out come­back­ers.

Some com­ple­tions were as dis­con­cert­ing as the faroff-the-mark in­com­ple­tions. Kessler and Osweiler, in par­tic­u­lar, threw no­tice­ably late more than once on sim­ple short come­back­ers; re­ceivers were wait­ing for the ball to ar­rive well af­ter mak­ing their cuts. In the reg­u­lar sea­son, such late throws are usu­ally bro­ken up or in­ter­cepted.

Con­sid­er­ing Kessler and Ho­gan were mid­dle-round draft picks last year (the Kansas City Chiefs gave up on Ho­gan af­ter four months) and Kizer is a sec­ond-round draft pick fresh out of Notre Dame, by rights Osweiler should be out­per­form­ing the lot of ’em. He isn’t. Last Satur­day, the for­mer Bronco/ Texan ap­peared as un­sure and er­ratic as the oth­ers.

If there was one ray of hope burn­ing a hole through that deck of grey mis­ery, it was the po­ten­tial of Kizer. As so many draft ex­perts promised, Kizer’s phys­i­cal tal­ents in­deed are im­pres­sive. Strong arm, fast re­lease. He’s listed at 6-foot-4 but looks, and plays, taller. That no doubt con­trib­utes to his ap­par­ent com­fort in the pocket, a sur­prise af­ter he played in Brian Kelly’s pure shot­gun spread at­tack with the Fight­ing Ir­ish. A cou­ple times the 21-year-old ripped slant throws square into the hands of his re­ceivers — to my eyes, the most im­pres­sive com­ple­tions on the day.

Af­ter prac­tice, Kessler and Kizer con­tin­ued throw­ing to­gether, as Osweiler signed au­to­graphs. Ho­gan? Didn’t see him af­ter­ward, but he ap­pears des­tined to be cut; doesn’t have a pro arm.

Bot­tom line with this QB four­some? Un­less Osweiler or Kessler pull away this month, or are sub­stan­tially ahead of the rookie in all the pre-snap re­quire­ments (e.g., con­sis­tently com­mand­ing the hud­dle, iden­ti­fy­ing de­fences, ad­just­ing his pro­tec­tions and au­di­b­ling into bet­ter plays, all well be­fore the play clock ex­pires), Browns head coach Hue Jack­son might as well start Kizer from the get-go.

Other ob­ser­va­tions, quotes and notes from my train­ing-camps tour, on which I ob­served sin­gle-day prac­tices of the New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots, Buf­falo Bills, the Browns, In­di­anapo­lis Colts, Chicago Bears and Detroit Li­ons, in that or­der, end­ing Tues­day:

Yup, Mark Sanchez looked pretty good at Mon­day’s Bears prac­tice at Olivet Nazarene Univer­sity, a Protes­tant school an hour’s drive


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