Cody Kessler played two full series in the first quarter before leaving with a rib injury. Kessler did not return to action, but his play on the Browns lone touchdown drive was impressive. Kessler has shown signs of improvement in each of his first three starts and it was disappointing to see him exit the game following his touchdown drive.
On the drive Kessler orchestrated a nine-play 75-yard drive, capped off by a touchdown toss to Andrew Hawkins. Here we will break down some positives from Kessler and give reasons as to why Kessler should remain the starter (when healthy) for the team moving forward this season.
This first play is Kessler’s touchdown pass to Hawkins. On the play the Patriots use one single high safety and shade him to the right to give help on Pryor. On the left side of the formation rookie Ricardo Louis is to the outside and Hawkins is in the slot. The Patriots are in man coverage and the Browns use a “pick” concept to free Hawkins.
The play design calls for the outside receiver (Louis) running a slant or inside route to get in the way of the inside defender. This allows for the inside receiver to separate and get open on the outside. The Browns executed this play perfectly, as Hawkins runs a corner route and is able to separate from the man coverage. Kessler throws a perfectly timed pass and has an easy touchdown.
This next throw comes on the same drive and is the play before the touchdown. One of Kessler’s biggest knacks is his lack of arm strength. However, on this throw Kessler shows the abilities to make up for an average arm.
On the right side Pryor runs a comeback route. They key to completing this route is throwing on time before the receiver breaks off his route. On the play Kessler throws in rhythm and with anticipation, releasing the ball before Pryor makes his break, giving the defender no chance to make a play on the ball.
Kessler shows he can deliver accurately and make the throws that usually require more arm strength as his anticipation and accuracy make up the difference.
Over the course of a little more than two full games of action, Kessler has done an extremely good job of taking care of the ball. He has only thrown one interception, and that was late in the game against Washington as he was trying to make something happen. At times Kessler has gone to his check down read to quickly, but for a rookie quarterback he has shown poise and smartness to take care of the ball, not forcing anything.
On this play Kessler begins to work his progressions on the left side. Nothing is open and he shifts his eyes back to the middle of the field. This is where Kessler gets “happy feet” on this play. He still has a relatively clean pocket, but he feels like he is out of time to make a decision. With more experience, Kessler will gain a better understanding of how to operate inside the pocket.
Despite shuffling his feet sporadically, Kessler still keeps his eyes downfield and finds Isaiah Crowell coming out of the backfield for a big gain of 18 yards. Many young quarterbacks look to run when they feel like they sense pressure. Despite having bad footwork on the play, Kessler keeps his eyes downfield and is able to dump it off to his running back.
Although Kessler was limited to playing just the first quarter due to a rib injury he showed improvement on the Browns first touchdown drive. Kessler has improved and gained more confidence each and every week. The rookie quarterback has shown leadership and, for the most part, played mistake-free football.
This is why the Browns should continue to start Kessler over Josh McCown.