BEREA, Ohio--Ready or not, here they come.
As the Browns prepare to head to Miami to take on the Dolphins Sunday, Hue Jackson is confident that Cody Kessler is ready for his NFL debut.
“He has had a good week," Jackson said. "He has done a good job. We all know he is very accurate. He knows where to go with the ball, how to go there with the ball. He knows how to get us in the right protection and do all those things. We are practicing. It is not a game. Thus far, the two days he has had, he has done really well.
"I’m not surprised by that," he said. "It is exactly what I have seen since he started. He is just getting more reps at it and more turns at it, and he has done a good job.”
Jackson was asked what he's told Kessler as far as what his approach should be in his first NFL start.
“Play the game," Jackson said. "Play the game. Play within yourself. Keep your poise. Run our offense the way we have coached you to run our offense. You don’t have to do more than what you need to do. You are just a part of this. Obviously, he has to manage himself. I can’t manage a man that way. He has to manage himself.
"He has played at a high level in a big time college program," Jackson said. "There is nothing like playing in the National Football League. For me not to understand that he will be amped up and ready to go but at the same time, I think he knows there are a bunch of other guys on the other side that are after him. That is just life in the National Football League as a quarterback. He will be ready to go.”
Kessler feels his background in a pro-style offense at USC will help him as he starts.
“I was fortunate to be in a pro-style offense when (Alabama offensive coordinator) Lane Kiffin was there," Kessler said. "It was all under center, slowed down, break the huddle, all that pro-style offense. When Coach Sark (former USC Head Coach Steve Sarkisian) took over, it stayed the same but he sped it up. He kind of got more adjusted and acclimated to college football. Things were speeding up, but still the same concept.
"Terminology is a little different but, that is the same thing here," Kessler said. "A lot of the stuff that I did in college, it is that west coast offense. You are used to the pro-style offense, but all the terminology changes and some coaches teach it different. Some coaches want certain things on different plays, but being able to look at a play or concept and say, ‘OK, I’ve done this before,’ has helped my process up to this point.”
Jackson said the Browns offense is a bit different from what he did in college.
“We are a little different, though," Jackson said. "He has had to adapt. He really has, and I think he has done a good job. He is very bright and he works at it. He is a tireless worker. He has adapted our verbiage, our terminology, and I think he has done a good job. It does help that he has been around some people that maybe myself and (associate head coach – offense) Pep (Hamilton) knows because it gives him an opportunity to bounce things off of them and understand what we are trying to accomplish a little bit better.”
Andrew Hawkins thinks Kessler will be ready from what he's seen of the rookie.
“He has put a lot of work in, a lot of work," Hawkins said. "He is taking the practice reps as if they are game reps. He is just taking it seriously and doing what he has to do to get himself prepared.
"That is half the battle," he said. "He is a young guy. He is going into his third NFL game, and he is already a starter. What we have seen this week in practice, we feel good about it. We think he is going to show up on Sunday, and that is what we are planning on.”
Ricardo Louis agreed.
“He is really good with the West Coast offense," Louis said. "Short routes, throwing slants, getting it out of his hands quickly is one of the things he’s good at. I think that gives him a lot of confidence moving forward. Coach (Jackson) is telling us to help the quarterback out. We have to get open, catch the ball for him, make plays for him so he gets more confidence back there. Obviously, our offense has to block for him the entire time.”
Eleven-year veteran quarterback Charlie Whitehurst just joined the Browns, but he's seen a lot of quarterbacks in his time in the NFL and has been impressed with Kessler already.
“He kind of operates not like a rookie," Whitehurst said. "He really takes charge out there and seems like he has a really good grasp of the offense. I don’t know what kind of reps he has gotten thus far – I wasn’t here – but being the third guy, I think he has put in a week’s work that has given him a chance to perform on Sunday.”
Jackson thinks Kessler's experience and background will help him be successful at the NFL level.
“Oh yeah, all those things play into it," Jackson said. "You want a guy that is unflappable a little bit, a guy that does not get too high, does not get too low, just stays very consistent, a guy that can demonstrate poise and toughness and resiliency because that is what this game demands. Yeah, he had a lot of characteristics that we liked, and he needs to display those this weekend.
"I think he will," Jackson said. "As I have said before, I know a lot of us make it about Cody, it is really about our team. In order for Cody to play well, his team around him has to play well offensively, defensively, and special teams. It will not just be him. He just has to do his part to the best of his ability.”
Kessler started his preseason with a beautiful back shoulder touchdown throw to Rashard Higgins against the Packers, but his preseason went downhill from there. He seemed overwhelmed, getting sacked seven times and had two safeties. Sports talk radio in Cleveland, as well as the fans have not been overly optimistic this week about Kessler's first start.
Jackson isn't concerned about that.
“You said you are stuck on that?" Jackson said. "Fans are? OK, and I respect that. I am not worried about what our fans are stuck on. I’m not worried about that. We are going to find out on Sunday. I can’t speak to what our fans are stuck on. I am stuck on a lot of things, too. I am not trying to sound arrogant in saying that, but I’m just saying, he has to play.
"He has to play," he said. "I can’t tell you what is going to happen on Sunday. All I can tell you is we have a game on Sunday, and he is going to go out there and play so the fans will be able to judge it then. Whether they feel good about it or bad about it, they are entitled to feel the way they want to feel, and I understand that.”
Haden Questionable: As if the Browns don't need any more bad news, DB Joe Haden missed the walk through Friday with a groin injury. He is listed as questionable for the game.
“He has just got a groin," Jackson said. "I know everybody has to go on these lists. Everybody has to check everything, but yesterday after practice, he had a little groin strain. We will see how bad it is, but I don’t anticipate it being an issue. We will see. He is on the injury report so we have to go by the report.”
If Haden cannot play, DB Tramon Williams will likely start opposite of former Dolphins CB Jamar Taylor with DB Tracy Howard moving up to slot.
Murray Injured?: Jackson said that K Patrick Murray suffered some type of injury to a knee during practice this week. He didn't know if it was the same knee that he suffered an ACL injury to last season, causing him to miss the season with Tampa Bay. Murray beat out K Travis Coons during the preseason, but had an extra point blocked last week and missed a 52-yard field goal. Jackson said the Browns won't know until later today if they will need to bring a kicker for this week's game.
McCown Broken Collarbone?: Defensive coordinator Ray Horton said that QB Josh McCown played last Sunday with a broken collarbone. Jackson said McCown might have some displacement, but has not been told McCown had a broken collarbone. He re-iterated that McCown is "week-to-week."
“First of all, that is not Ray’s job to talk about our offensive players," Jackson said. "I think Josh has, I don’t know if it is totally broken. That is different to me what broke is, and what in there is in there. I haven’t been told that he has a broken collarbone. We are just going to work through it. Now, is there maybe a little [fracture] there? There could be. We are working through it. Like I said, Josh is going to be week to week. I think sometimes our coaches, all of a sudden they make comments. I’m sure if you talk to Ray again, he would say he is totally not sure, but anytime when a quarterback can’t play, obviously, you are going to assume the worst. He doesn’t get the medical report that way. I do. Sorry if there is some misinformation that way.”
Cleveland.com reported that McCown has a broken collarbone of his non-throwing shoulder earlier in the week.
Five Out : WR Corey Coleman (hand), OL Cameron Erving (chest/lung), QB Josh McCown (shoulder), DL Carl Nassib (hand) and DB Ibraheim Campbell (hamstring) missed the entire week of practice and will not play Sunday. DL Stephen Paea (elbow), DL Danny Shelton (knee) and TE Randall Telfer (neck) are expected to play. Rookie DB Derrick Kindred will start in place of Campbell.