Q: How many quarterbacks are the Browns going to start this year? I say five.
— John Wilkinson
A: Well, John, that’s an optimistic start to my inaugural mailbag. But I do understand the sarcasm, considering the team’s recent history. The Browns have started two quarterbacks once and three quarterbacks four times over the last five seasons, so I’ll play the percentages and say three get starts in 2017 — Brock Osweiler, DeShone Kizer and Kevin Hogan.
Q: Will Zane Gonzalez be decent this year? We need a dependable kicker. The biggest question, of course, is the quarterback situation. Who will win the job?
— Mary Ann Pokorny
A: Hey, Mares, let’s start with the kickers. Gonzalez has begun to come on over the last week but he’s not a lock to beat out incumbent Cody Parkey. Both are quality kickers with strong legs, so I think the Browns will be fine either way.
As for the quarterbacks, I give Brock Osweiler a 70 percent chance to hold down the starting job for Week 1. I still wouldn’t rule out a trade if Sashi Brown got the right offer — a third-round pick and $6 million of his guaranteed $16 million salary — and rookie DeShone Kizer could outplay him against the Giants and force coach Hue Jackson’s hand.
Q: This is a perfect time to put it to John Greco, who has played both guard spots and is set to start Monday on the left side, where first he played for Cleveland before shifting to the right side upon the arrival of Joel Bitonio. What I’d like to know is the skill-set differences coaches prefer at left guard relative to, conversely, right guard.
— Mark Leonard
A: Mark, the differences aren’t nearly as great at guard, as compared to tackle, or even the two defensive end spots. Greco has downplayed the difficulty in bouncing between guard spots, but much of that can be attributed to his experience. The biggest skill-set differences are in footwork and hand placement, as the player is required to change dominant hand and foot.
In today’s pass-first NFL, I think the guard spots have become nearly interchangeable as far as coaches’ preference. Everyone must be able to pass block at a high level, where a decade ago the right side of the line was reserved for the best run blockers. Remember, the Browns made Kevin Zeitler the highest-paid guard in league history, and he plays on the right side. So both guards need to be able to do it all.