CLEVELAND — Coach Hue Jackson is letting the drama build to a crescendo. His pick as Cleveland’s starting quarterback is only hours away.
Drum roll, please.
Following weeks of training camp practices and two exhibition games, Jackson said Tuesday he still hasn’t decided if Brock Osweiler, rookie DeShone Kizer or Cody Kessler will start the team’s season opener on Sept. 10 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
He’s close, but not quite there.
Jackson said he’s leaning toward one of the QBs, but will wait to consult with members of the front office before finalizing his decision.
“I think I feel pretty good about where I am,” Jackson said on a conference call. “I have been feeling pretty good about what I feel and what I think for a little while now, but you have to let things, as I have always said, play out. Today, I wanted to finish the things I wanted to watch, have the conversations I wanted to have with others and just kind of move from there.”
Jackson spent Tuesday reviewing tape of Monday night’s win over the New York Giants. He wanted to dissect the footage and digest it before meeting with the club’s executive staff.
Later, the Browns released defensive end Desmond Bryant, who missed all of last season with a chest injury. Bryant joined the Browns as an unrestricted free agent in 2013 and started 41 games.
Osweiler and Kizer are the front-runners for the QB job, which has seemingly been up for grabs at the start of every season in Cleveland. The Browns have gone through 26 different starting quarterbacks since 1999.
Osweiler, acquired in a March trade from Houston, didn’t do anything to badly damage his chances during his second consecutive start on Monday. He completed 6 of 8 passes for 25 yards and had a tipped pass intercepted.
However, he failed to lead the Browns to any points in six series and Jackson has mentioned that as being a major factor in separating the contending QBs.
Osweiler is experienced — he’s 13-8 in NFL starts — and that could be the tipping point for Jackson, who many not want to rush Kizer into the lineup before he’s ready.
In his two exhibition starts, the 26-year-old Osweiler completed 12 of 22 passes for 67 yards. He was not sacked.
Osweiler didn’t spend as much time in camp working with the offensive starters as Kizer or Kessler, but Jackson doesn’t feel that hindered him.
“I don’t think it is an excuse, but I also don’t think it has hurt him, either,” Jackson said. “I think he has represented himself well. He has done some good things and worked hard and done a great job in this building. There is no question he is in the discussion here.”
Kizer closed the gap on the veterans in camp, and it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if Jackson decides to give him the job.
The former Notre Dame starter has been impressive with his composure and confidence, and there’s no doubt that he’s got the arm strength to make any throw.
Kizer has been the most productive QB in the preseason, leading the Browns (2-0) to three TDs. He has completed 19 of 31 passes for 258 yards and threw for a touchdown to rally Cleveland to a win over New Orleans.
Jackson’s main critiques of Kizer have been with taking charge on the field and communicating with the sideline. He improved in both areas against the Giants.
“He got better at communicating with his teammates in the huddle,” Jackson said. “I thought that was pretty obvious. I thought there were times where he could have gotten the ball out better and a little sooner, and I think he saw those. That comes from playing and playing with players and going through the system. There was improvement, and there are things he has to keep growing at. This is going to be a process for him as he continues to move forward.”
NOTES: Starting MLB Tank Carder tore a knee ligament against the Giants and will undergo season-ending knee surgery. Carder’s injury will move second-year LB Joe Schobert up with the first team. Schobert has been a pleasant surprise this summer. … Rookie TE David Njoku injured his ankle but Jackson expects him “to be fine.” A first-round pick, Njoku has been slowed by a sore back. …Upon releasing Bryant, the Browns signed DL Brandon Thompson, a seven-year NFL veteran.