In March, it appeared Brock Osweiler’s career had hit rock-bottom.
One year after signing a four-year, $US72 million deal to become the Houston Texans’ starter, the Texans dumped Osweiler on the Cleveland Browns in what was an NBA-like salary dump.
In fact, the Texans actually had to sweeten the pot for the Browns by sending a 2017 sixth-round pick and 2018 second-round pick.
After a 2016 season in which he threw 15 touchdowns and 16 interceptions while posting a 72 passer rating, Osweiler had become a contract nobody wanted.
However, through offseason workouts, Osweiler impressed the Browns and became a darkhorse to win the starting job. During OTAs in May, Browns coach Hue Jackson admitted his expectations were low and that Osweiler was a revelation.
“I expected everything that you guys wrote. I watched everything that you guys wrote about what he was and what he wasn’t. I heard it from everywhere, too … I think you guys know me; I don’t judge people by what everybody else says. But everybody has a reputation before them. His was a little bit different.
“He’s not any of that that we’ve [seen]. The guy has been outstanding in our building, and I think that’s what’s most important.”
Likewise, Browns quarterbacks coach David Lee told Sports Illustrated’s Chris Burke that Osweiler has impressed.
“I’m speaking from my heart: He has been great. His questions have been great. He has a lot of questions, but he oughta have. He knows how to play, he knows systems and when a read doesn’t make sense to him, there’s a reason it doesn’t because of somewhere he’s been before. I can’t speak of where he’s been before but I’ll tell you right now … he looks like a guy that’s played before. He’s great at the line of scrimmage, he’s great in the huddle, [has a] calming effect. Is he the QB yet? We ain’t got one yet, but he’s in the mix, for sure.”
According to Burke, Lee also praised Osweiler’s experience over the Browns’ other quarterbacks, which can swing a quarterback competition.
While Osweiler may not have the stiffest competition — second-year quarterback Cody Kessler and rookie DeShone Kizer have been considered Osweiler’s main opponents — it’s nonetheless an improvement upon being considered a contract the Browns would dump at some point.
NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport echoed similar thoughts of Osweiler’s impressive OTAs:
“As far as his existence on the Browns, it has changed dramatically from when he was first acquired in that very strange trade around the time of free agency. First it was, ‘Well, he’s probably not going to be on the team, let’s try to trade him, see if we can get anything for him, dump the salary.’ And now, now that he’s here, he’s clearly competing, he’s actually impressed with how he’s gone through things … This is a far, far different quarterback than what the Houston Texans saw last year.”
Osweiler has mostly said the right things about being happy to be in Cleveland, analysing his film, trying to improve, and believing there is proof that he can start in the NFL. He did, however, raise eyebrows by saying the Browns coach him on his fundamentals more and it has improved his throws and decision-making from last year. Some interpreted it as a shot at the Texans and Bill O’Brien’s offence, which Osweiler clearly did not master.
It’s possible that the Browns are praising Osweiler to improve the perception of him around the league and increase his trade value. However, if the Browns can get the version of Osweiler that performed admirably in 2015 with the Broncos, one of the league’s most quarterback-desperate teams may be able to put a better offence on the field than most expected.
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