Cody Kessler Named Browns' Starting QB vs. Dolphins over Charlie Whitehurst

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistSeptember 21, 2016

FILE - In this Sept. 1, 2016, file photo, Cleveland Browns quarterback Cody Kessler (5) looks to pass in the second half of an NFL preseason football game against the Chicago Bears, in Cleveland. Kessler is playing sooner than expected because of injuries to Robert Griffin III and Josh McCown. He'll make his first NFL start against the Miami Dolphins, who have knocked out QBs in their first two games. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane, File)
Ron Schwane/Associated Press

Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson announced Wednesday that Cody Kessler will start Sunday's game against the Miami Dolphins, per Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal.

During the press conference, Jackson praised the rookie's work ethic, per Ulrich:

Nate Ulrich @NateUlrichABJ

#Browns HC Hue Jackson said Cody Kessler is in building from morning to night, have to kick him out, prepping as hard as he can to get ready

The news didn't come as much of a surprise.

While Charlie Whitehurst, who signed with the Browns on Monday, has more NFL experience, he hasn't had time to learn the team's playbook and offensive scheme.

Cleveland is down to its third-string quarterback after injuries sidelined Robert Griffin III and Josh McCown. The team placed Griffin on the injured reserve list after he fractured a bone in his left shoulder in Week 1, while McCown is likely to miss a lengthy spell after suffering a shoulder injury on Sunday.

NFL Network's Andrew Siciliano noted Cleveland's starting QB job has become a revolving door:

Andrew Siciliano @AndrewSiciliano

Browns will start their 5th QB in last 5 regular season games. 2015 Wk 16: Manziel Wk 17: Davis 2016 Wk 1: RGIII Wk 2: McCown Wk 3: Kessler

The Browns had a chance to select Carson Wentz in the 2016 draft but traded the second overall pick to the Philadelphia Eagles and subsequently grabbed Kessler in the third round. In his final big board, Bleacher Report's Matt Miller ranked the former USC Trojans star as the 13th-best quarterback available.

In his four years at USC, Kessler threw for 10,339 yards, 88 touchdowns and 19 interceptions. He ranks fourth in school history in passing yards and third in passing touchdowns.

Shortly after the draft, Jackson talked up Kessler's abilities, per Ulrich: "The guy has had a tremendous career. I understand where everybody's coming from, but you've got to trust me on this one. This is a guy that we feel very comfortable with, and we feel he's going to have an opportunity to ascend."

The 23-year-old will now have an opportunity to repay Jackson for his faith.

Pro Football Focus' Sam Monson questioned whether he's ready to handle being a starter so early in his professional career:

The biggest issue Kessler faces is that he no longer has time to work on his flaws, and is about to be thrown into NFL action before he is ready. Jared Goff has many of the same problems facing Kessler (minus the physical limitations), and hasn't been near the starting role for the Rams, with far more incentive there for the team to throw him in, given that he was the No.1 overall pick.

If Kessler had time to develop in the NFL, I think he has tools to work with, but thrown into the fire in Week 3 of his rookie season on a team that is young, inexperienced, and trying just to find its own feet? Kessler's chances of immediate success don't look good, and the Browns may need to hope that it doesn't do his long-term prospects harm.

Kessler may not face much pressure Sunday, though. This season was already a rebuilding campaign for Cleveland, and between the team's 0-2 start and problems at QB, even the most optimistic Browns fan has abandoned any hopes of making the playoffs.

Kessler will go through growing pains as he adjusts to the NFL. As long as he's showing progress from week to week, the team will be satisfied.

With that said, the franchise is familiar with the perils of starting a young passer too early. In their haste to find a franchise QB, the Browns elevated Johnny Manziel and Tim Couch before either was fully prepared, and the results were disastrous.

While the short-term risk of starting Kessler isn't high, as Monson argued, Kessler's long-term development could be hindered should poor performances begin shaking his confidence under center.


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.