BEREA — Quarterback Brock Osweiler has a second chance to make a first impression. He knows that he must make the most of it.
The sixth-year pro performed dismally in the preseason opener against New Orleans, but will make his second straight start Monday when Cleveland hosts the New York Giants.
“Coach (Hue) Jackson is very black and white on what he expects on certain plays,” Osweiler said Thursday as the Browns held their final practice of training camp.
“Now, it’s time to show him — games are really like tests — that you understand the coaching points he has given you, and that you can go out there and execute.”
Though Osweiler is the most experienced and physically imposing quarterback on the roster, he put up the worst statistics on either team during Cleveland’s 20-14 win over the Saints.
The 6-foot-7, 240-pounder connected on 6-of-14 throws for 42 yards and a game-low 50.3 passer rating. His longest completion was a mere 10 yards, matching his lone rushing attempt at FirstEnergy Stadium.
Somewhat surprisingly, Jackson believed Osweiler played well enough to remain atop the depth chart. Rookie DeShone Kizer did vault over 2016 starter Cody Kessler into the backup spot and will see first-half action against the Giants.
“As far as opportunities go in the National Football League, you don’t know when they are going to come,” said Osweiler, who is with his third team in three years. “It’s all about just being prepared for them.
“You can mentally prepare for certain things, but for the most part, you just want to go out there and show what you’re capable of and make great decisions with the football.”
Second-round pick Kizer lived up to that job description while playing the entire second half against New Orleans. The Notre Dame product went 11-of-18 for 184 yards and threw the winning touchdown with 1:58 left in regulation.
Kessler entered camp as the first-stringer and has steadily slipped down the list. He was 5-of-10 for 47 yards in the exhibition opener, but 31 of them came on a meaningless completion late in the second quarter.
“If you aren’t focused on being the starting quarterback for this team, I don’t know what you’re doing here at this training camp,” Osweiler said confidently. “In saying that, you can’t look past your preseason games. We all have an end goal in mind, but the immediate goal is to play great football against the New York Giants and find a way to get a win.”
While Osweiler was resolute in his session with the media, Kizer didn’t attempt to contain his excitement about being promoted. The Toledo native gave himself high grades across the board and is eager to play against better competition.
“I think I am consistently heading in the right path,” Kizer said. “There haven’t really been too many big things that have fallen. I think the way I have been able to move my way up the depth chart and earn more reps has been a good visual of that.
“Since I will be playing against some twos and some ones now, it will be fun to go out and really evaluate myself against some higher talent.”
Jackson gave Kizer more reason to be optimistic following practice, making it clear that he has a legitimate shot at starting the Sept. 10 regular-season opener against Pittsburgh.
“He is talented, we all know that, but it comes down to how fast he can grasp all of this and be able to perform at a high level,” the coach said. “He has to earn the right (to start) if he can. And if he can’t, that’s OK. We’re going to keep pushing him and putting him in the right environment to get him where he needs to be.”
Left tackle Joe Thomas, however, expressed doubt that Kizer will be on the field in Week 1. The 10-time Pro Bowl selection said he believes rookies need more seasoning before being thrust under center.
Kizer laughed when asked about Thomas’ statement, but made sure to show respect toward his future blind-side protector.
“Joe has been in the NFL since I have been in seventh grade, so whatever he says is probably pretty accurate,” he said. “The more time I have, the better I will become. I understand that the coaches and the front office have a plan. Hopefully, that plan will lead to success for myself and this team.”
Contact Brian Dulik at [email protected] Follow him @BrianDulik on Twitter.