Tonight Marks Cody Kessler’s First Chance to Prove Himself with the Cleveland Browns

Cleveland Browns v Green Bay Packers
Dylan Buell-Getty Images

Everyone fully expected the Cleveland Browns to grab a quarterback at some point of last spring’s NFL Draft. When they finally did, it caught fans and pundits completely off guard.

Despite being tagged to big names like Jared Goff, Carson Wentz or Connor Cook, the Browns instead selected former USC Trojan standout Cody Kessler in the third round. Coach Hue Jackson seemed to be ready to defend the pick the second the QB’s name was submitted, telling local media everyone needed to trust him on the selection.

As a result, Kessler has had significant doubt cast his way since the moment his time in Cleveland began, all due to the team taking him much higher than anyone anticipated. So, while many people see the fourth and final preseason game as meaningless, it certainly won’t be that way for the Browns rookie. Kessler is likely going to get significant playing time tonight as Cleveland hosts the Chicago Bears in the preseason finale, and he should treat it as his first big chance to prove himself to his audience of doubters.

To be fair, it’d be highly surprising if he completely changed the minds of everyone who questioned his selection with a solid half of football tonight. The Bears won’t be playing any starters, so Kessler won’t be going up against a first-string defense.

Still, he had a lot of knocks on him coming into the draft, enough for many scouts to claim he might not get picked at all. While he likely isn’t in a place where all of these question marks can be erased tonight, Kessler can certainly show off his progression with a strong performance.

A consensus write-up on Kessler labeled him as a “low-risk, low-reward” quarterback. He was one of college football’s most accurate passers, but doesn’t have the arm-strength coaches look for. His accuracy also dropped significantly any time he was forced to scramble.

Basically, it was no surprise to see many eyebrows raised when the Browns announced their selection of Kessler. A team on a seemingly eternal search for any semblance of a franchise quarterback took a player many scouts saw as too raw to ever make an impact in the NFL? In the third round?

Obviously, Kessler has a lot to prove. He’s seen limited action so far in the preseason, only attempting eleven passes in three games. He has one touchdown, but also committed two safeties, so it’s been quite a mixed bag.

All in all, he hasn’t been on the field enough to give anyone a solid idea as to how he’s progressing. However, Jackson implied Kessler will get a lot of action tonight. Starter Robert Griffin III will probably play a couple series, with Josh McCown likely finishing off the first half. After that, though, it’ll be all Kessler

If this is indeed the case, he’ll be getting his first shot to prove he can hang in the NFL.

A strong performance can definitely go a long way for Kessler. It’s very difficult to hold out hope for Griffin staying healthy all year. McCown also took plenty of damage last season, and might not even be in Cleveland much longer considering how eager the Browns are to move older players for draft picks.

One thing which could grease the wheels on a potential trade of McCown is a strong showing from Kessler tonight.

Should he play well enough, Cleveland may find itself more comfortable with the idea of shipping McCown. This would also be quite an endorsement for Kessler, as the team would essentially be claiming it’s comfortable with the idea of him being Griffin’s backup. Quite a leap from the pre-draft scouting reports soaked with the word “raw.”

This is all clearly a bit ambitious. We’re talking about the preseason, after all, and easily the least important game of it.

Still, a strong night could go a long way for Kessler. Very little is expected of him this year, as almost no one outside of Cleveland thought his draft selection was a smart one. Should he look impressive tonight, it would show both the Browns and the rest of the league that he has more potential than everyone initially predicted.


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