The most obvious is “will Cleveland actually win a game this year?” All signs point to no, but the team seems hell-bent on not spotting a bagel in the win column at season’s end. Additionally, everyone will be keeping an eye on rookie development, as well as the continued growth of Terrelle Pryor at wideout.
One of the most important issues we’ll need figured out is whether or not rookie Cody Kessler can be a franchise quarterback. Despite his starting six games for the Browns, the answer to this is still unknown. As a result, Kessler is down to just seven more chances (barring injury) to prove Cleveland has itself a QB it can build around.
All cards on the table, I’ve been impressed with what I’ve seen so far from the former USC Trojan. His poise and accuracy carried over from college, and he really only showed jitters in the opening series of his first start. Say what you will about him, you can’t deny Kessler looks as though he can hang in the NFL.
However, can he hang as a team’s starter or just as a very polished backup? Unfortunately for him, the jury is still out on that one.
Just as Kessler’s strengths have been on display, so has one of his glaring red flags. Simply put, we’re still waiting to see how he works around his questionable arm strength.
Cleveland’s rookie QB has shown a knack for dinking and dunking his way down the field with short throws and check-downs. However, the problem continues to be opposing defenses adjusting to this in the second half. Once the short-yardage passes are cut off, Kessler has struggled significantly at deep throws.
Coach Hue Jackson, who hand-selected Kessler and told everyone to trust him with the pick, called this out after the team’s most recent loss to the Dallas Cowboys. He doubled down on it yesterday, saying his quarterback needs to find a way to get the ball downfield.
“Are you asking do I want to see the ball go down the field more? Yes, I do. It needs to,” Jackson said.
“That’s the way we score more points. Cody’s done a good job of distributing the ball and he’s done a good job of putting the ball in the right places for the most part, but he knows now that in the NFL you have to take a few more chances to score points because the defenses are too good.”
It’s the first time Jackson has really challenged Kessler, and it appears he, too, knows how little time the quarterback has left to reassure the front office and sway it from picking a replacement this spring.
Barring any sort of surprises, Cleveland will be picking first in the upcoming draft. Whether or not the team selects a quarterback depends almost entirely on what Kessler can show the rest of the way out. Jackson’s comments have now put the spotlight on his quarterback’s lack of arm strength. If seven games go by and this still remains a problem for him, that doesn’t exactly bode well.
Not helping matters is the fact inclement weather is going to play a factor in the majority of these final contests. Kessler has already shown struggles when it comes to downfield passing, adding frigid temps and a potential for snow isn’t going to make this hurdle any easier for him to leap.
That said, Kessler really doesn’t have much of a choice. His coach wants to see him complete some long throws, and if he can’t do so, the team will be in a great position to find someone else who can. It’s up to Kessler to prove the Browns won’t need to worry about that come next spring.