BEREA — Kevin Hogan began training camp at the bottom of the Browns’ depth chart. The second-year pro will open the season as their backup quarterback.
Coach Hue Jackson promoted Hogan to the No. 2 spot behind rookie DeShone Kizer — and demoted Cody Kessler to the third string — in a somewhat surprising announcement Friday.
Kizer will make his NFL debut when Cleveland hosts Pittsburgh on Sunday, but Hogan is just one play away from taking the reins following a strong preseason.
“I think you reward people who play really, really well and do the things that you need done,” Jackson said. “Kevin did, and he showed that, so I am giving him the first crack at it. I just think Kevin is more in line with where we are and what we are trying to accomplish this week.”
Hogan completed 21 of 32 throws for 269 yards, three touchdowns, zero interceptions and a team-high 123.0 passer rating in the preseason. He joined the Browns on Sept. 5, 2016, after being waived by Kansas City.
The 6-foot-3, 218-pounder arrived at camp as the fourth and final QB on the roster behind Kessler, since-released Brock Osweiler and Kizer — in that order. He did not play in the exhibition opener, illustrating his tenuous spot on the squad.
“I was just hopeful for an opportunity and whenever it might come, I would take advantage of it,” said Hogan, who was the Chiefs’ fifth-round selection last season. “My mindset has always been to control what I can control, and I knew I had done everything I could. Knowing the coaches have trust in me means the world to me.”
Hogan appeared in four games off the bench last year, throwing for 100 yards with two interceptions on Oct. 23 at Cincinnati. The fleet-footed Stanford product also rushed for 104 yards against the Bengals.
Kessler started eight games in 2016, posting a 0-8 record while establishing Cleveland rookie records with a .655 completion percentage and 92.3 rating. The third-round pick’s descent has been rapid, but Jackson reacted testily when pressed on the subject.
“He is not at the bottom, I don’t want to paint that kind of picture for him,” the coach said. “He is not at the bottom, he is one of the backup quarterbacks on this football team.
“Cody is going to have a chance this year to also be the backup at some point. I want to make sure I put that out there. We’ll play this thing out and if there is a chance where Cody fits better, than Cody will be the backup.”
Starting defensive end Myles Garrett is the only Browns player listed as out for Week 1. The top overall draft pick is sidelined indefinitely with a high right ankle sprain.
“Everybody just has to be patient, but Myles will be fine,” defensive coordinator Gregg Williams said. “He really will. He is a good kid. He is a good young player, and he is a good person.”
Defensive tackle Danny Shelton (knee) was listed as questionable, but said he plans on playing.
For the Steelers, tackle Jerald Hawkins (knee) is out and linebacker Bud Dupree (shoulder) is questionable.
Rookie Jabrill Peppers will start at safety and handle all returns, but special teams coordinator Chris Tabor and Williams aren’t worried about his potential workload.
“No, there is no concern at all,” Tabor said. “You don’t want your opposing special teams coordinator to go to bed at night and sleep peacefully. I think that this kid has the opportunity and skill set to be dynamic.”
The first-round pick from Michigan paced the Browns in punt return average (9.8) and kickoff return average (27.0) during the preseason. He also made an interception.
Linebacker B.J. Bello and safety Kai Nacua were signed off the practice squad to the 53-man roster. Both undrafted rookies spent the preseason with the Browns.
Bello is a 6-2, 229-pounder from Illinois State, while Brigham Young product Nacua stands 6-0 and 205.
Quote of the day
“Every day is a competition. If every single play wasn’t important, then why are you practicing? Those snaps are important because you know who won and who lost them. Even behind the scenes, we measure wins and losses on arguments.” — Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams
Contact Brian Dulik at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @BrianDulik