The fact the Cleveland Browns are hosting yet another training camp quarterback competition is hardly alarming. Considering the team we’re talking about here, it’d be far more surprising if there wasn’t a lack of clarity on just who’ll be under center come Week 1.
However, while Cody Kessler, DeShone Kizer and Brock Osweiler dueling it out to see who’ll be Cleveland’s opening day starter isn’t a concern, the fact nobody appears to be winning as preseason nears sure is.
Per many reports from those taking in Browns camp, there doesn’t appear to be any clear leader among the three QBs vying for the starting gig. Regardless of who’s been running the offense, the results have been underwhelming. For example, when coach Hue Jackson ran a two-minute drill in yesterday’s practice, all three quarterbacks failed to lead a scoring drive.
While this could be seen as an indictment on Kessler, Kizer and Osweiler, it also highlights one of the bigger concerns facing Cleveland as the season nears. Simply put, one of the main reasons none of the quarterbacks are standing out is the Browns’ significant lack of playmakers.
To be fair, Cleveland does seem primed and ready to rely on its running game this year. The team spent big to improve its offensive line, while Jackson has waxed poetically about his desire to get lead back Isaiah Crowell far more carries in 2017.
The second defenses key in on this, though, the Browns will have no choice but to air it out. When doing so, their lack of depth at wideout is going to be on full display, just as it has been in camp.
Right now, Cleveland is relying on a one-two punch of Kenny Britt and Corey Coleman at receiver. Britt coming off a career year with the Los Angeles Rams despite not working with the world’s best quarterbacks will certainly bode well in Cleveland, while Coleman is facing increased expectations in his second full season.
Encouraging as that may be, each starter comes with some red flags.
Coleman is coming off an incredibly underwhelming rookie season, complete with a lot of time spent off the field and little impact while on it. He showed struggles when it came to understanding a full NFL playbook, and also dealt with a handful of injuries. The fact he’s already coming off another ailment this offseason is cause for concern.
Meanwhile, Britt is seen as the Browns’ replacement for last year’s breakout star, Terrelle Pryor. Cleveland lost one of its best weapons of 2016 in free agency, and many struggle to consider the signing of Britt as an even swap.
The worries with him and Coleman are only exacerbated by the fact the Browns really don’t have much depth beyond those two.
Cleveland seems content hoping for big improvements from Ricardo Louis, Rashard Higgins and Jordan Payton, all selected in last year’s draft. While the team’s loyalty to its hand-picked talent is admirable, none of the aforementioned wideouts did much in 2016. Each will be depended on to step-up if Coleman or Britt get hurt, which is hardly a comforting scenario.
Cleveland does seem ready to be overly-dependent on its tight ends to take pressure off the receiving corps. Some are predicting a breakout season for Seth DeValve in his second year, while expectations are high for rookie David Njoku.
That said, the former is unproven, while the latter is seen as a raw prospect. This last fact has been hammered home by a training camp full of dropped passes. Though he’s rebounded in the past couple days, Njoku will need to get up to speed quickly. If he can’t, Cleveland’s offense will have to deal with even more limitations.
To be fair, expectations for this season as a whole aren’t exactly high, so struggles certainly won’t catch anyone off guard. That said, it’s going to be tough for a quarterback to stand out for the Browns if there isn’t much in terms of weapons to work with.
Bottom line – Cleveland needs to start seeing significant progress in its receiving corps, otherwise the concept of scoring touchdowns is going to be a rare phenomenon this season.