TOM WITHERS, AP Sports Writer
BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Brock Osweiler didn’t appear to be in Cleveland’s plans when he arrived via trade in March.
Now he’s starting the Browns’ exhibition opener.
Coach Hue Jackson picked Osweiler over Cody Kessler, rookie DeShone Kizer and Kevin Hogan to start Thursday’s preseason home game against the New Orleans Saints. Osweiler, who started 14 games for Houston last season, has not taken snaps with the starting offense during camp, but he’ll be the first one on the field, with a chance to impress Jackson and potentially win the full-time starting job.
“A lot goes into our evaluation, but it’s always going to be about efficiently and effectively running the offense,” Jackson said in a statement. “You want your starter to be able to do that despite any circumstance. Brock hasn’t really gotten any first-team reps and this will give him that chance. We look forward to seeing what he can do with this opportunity throughout the week and against the Saints.”
Osweiler has impressed the Browns with his attitude and work ethic after a rough season with the Texans. He went 8-6 during his one season with Houston but didn’t connect with coach Bill O’Brien, and the team shipped him and his $16 million guaranteed contract to the Browns, who also got a 2018 second-round draft pick.
Cleveland figured to deal him, but he’s still around and very much in the mix to be the Browns’ starter when they open the regular season on Sept. 10 against Pittsburgh.
Jackson made it clear last week that whomever he picks to start against the Saints won’t necessarily start against the Steelers.
Osweiler played the best of Cleveland’s four QBs on Friday night in a scrimmage at FirstEnergy Stadium. He led his team to two field goals, but Jackson called the overall play of his quarterbacks “spotty.”
Kessler has had a disappointing camp despite showing better arm strength and being in great shape. He went 0-8 as a rookie starter last season when he got pushed into the lineup because of injuries to Robert Griffin III and Josh McCown.
Kizer, the second-round pick from Notre Dame, has closed the gap on his competitors lately, but the Browns are inclined not to rush him. Kizer missed a chance to throw the only touchdown in the scrimmage but badly missed wide-open running back Duke Johnson.
Coming off a 1-15 season, Jackson knows it’s vital to find the franchise quarterback, but he won’t rush matters.
“I’m pleased with the way our quarterbacks have competed and improved throughout the offseason and training camp,” he said. “We are going to see a lot more of all of them this preseason and everyone in that room still has the chance to earn more opportunities and the right to lead our team as the starter when the regular season begins on Sept. 10.”
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