Josh McCown Injury Forces Cleveland Browns to Start Cody Kessler Well Before He’s Ready

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Nick Cammett-Diamond Images/Getty Images

If you’re looking for a solid joke to make about the Cleveland Browns and quarterbacks, there’s always plenty of material. It’s the kind of thing which happens when a team has 25 different starting QBs in the past 17 years.

That said, the quarterback insanity the Browns are currently enduring is crazy even for them.

Cleveland suited up Robert Griffin III for its season opener. One day later, he was placed on IR. Backup Josh McCown played well in yesterday’s Week 2 loss, but is dealing with a shoulder injury which will reportedly sideline him for an “extended period of time.” Now, rookie Cody Kessler is prepping to start this coming Sunday.

As a friendly reminder, we’re only in Week 3. We’ve barely made it into the 2016 season and the Browns are preparing their third starting quarterback of the year.

Said QB, Kessler, has his work cut out for him this week. The former USC Trojan looked like a deer in the headlights during the preseason, but will now need to step up in a big way to be ready to go on Sunday.

The deck was already stacked against the rookie quarterback thanks to where the Browns selected him this past spring. In a draft filled with viable prospects, Cleveland took Kessler in the third round. Many thought he might go undrafted, and everyone seemed aligned in their confusion regarding why the Browns took him so high despite higher-rated prospects still being available.

Coach Hue Jackson, however, assured fans and media that we needed to trust him with this pick. That said, it’s tough to believe he thought he’d have to prove this selection’s merit this early.

Yet, this is the situation we find ourselves in today. Cleveland has already burned through two quarterbacks in two games, and now has to throw a likely very unprepared Kessler into the gauntlet.

In that regard, you can’t help but feel bad for the rookie. He simply wasn’t supposed to play this year, seen as a raw, developmental prospect for the Browns to spend an entire year grooming on the sideline. This is a fact many will likely disregard if he underwhelms in his debut. Instead of remembering the fact Kessler wasn’t supposed to be ready to start in the first place this year, people will be hard on him if (when) he struggles, solely based on Jackson’s insistence on picking him in the first place.

But that’s life in the NFL. Very rarely do things go according to plan. While the plan was to bring Kessler along slowly, the reality is he’ll be depended on to bring the Browns their first win of the season this Sunday.

Cleveland will definitely have to spend the week prepping an appropriate game-plan for Kessler. His arm strength leaves a lot to be desired, so any plays featuring deep routes may have to be shelved. He looked incredibly skittish during the preseason, so Jackson will have to give him easy-to-grasp schemes early to let him establish a rhythm.

His biggest task, though, will be eliciting confidence from his teammates in the huddle.

The offensive players taking the field with Kessler Sunday have watched two of their starting QBs go down in two weeks. They’ve heard national media laugh at them on what seems like an hourly basis. Now they have to depend on a rookie to lead them to victory, one internal sources have already publicly claimed wasn’t close to being ready.

It’s an incredible amount of pressure to hoist upon Kessler’s shoulders. It’d be completely understandable if he were to crumble under a burden this heavy. Be that as it may, that’s an outcome he simply can’t let happen.

As for what the fans can expect from Kessler Sunday? Well, for that we can only go by what we’ve seen so far. In that limited time, it certainly appears as though a lot is going to have to change in Kessler’s game for his debut to be considered successful.

At this point though, Kessler surviving to see Week 4 would be viewed as a success.


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