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The Lede: Can the Browns Win with Kizer?

All those who follow the NFL closely know exactly how the preseason works: the first two weeks contain some valuable information, but it’s mostly how far down the depth chart backups sit. Week 3, on the other hand, serves as an actual regular-season dress rehearsal and you’ll find out which players are truly going to have a role for their respective teams.

That’s why the Browns’ announcement that rookie QB DeShone Kizer will start in Week 3 is actually big news. Head coach Hue Jackson has even gone one step further, stating that Kizer is trending towards being the regular-season starter, as well. Prior to this news, it was believed Brock Osweiler was being prepped to lead the Browns this season. The former Texan started the first two preseason games, but didn’t do enough to win the starting job. In the two games, Osweiler completed 12/22 passes for 67 yards, one interception, and a 41.3 passer rating. Meanwhile, Kizer grabbed his head coach’s attention by completing 19/31 passes for 258 yards, one TD, and a 98.6 passer rating. Kizer’s stats came against second-team defenses, but they’re still encouraging. If he continues to impress in Week 3 and wins the starting job, should it alter your expectations of the Browns in 2017? Takeaway: Vegas is not expecting much from the Browns this season, evident by their win total of just 4.5. If Osweiler winds up the starting pivot, they will have an awfully difficult time hitting the over. We all saw the effect the $72-million man can have on a very talented roster, so there’s no way anyone would expect him to push the Browns to overachieve. But if the Browns continue trending towards Kizer as their starter, the over on their season win total becomes intriguing. Cleveland has a lot more talent on its roster than many realize, and they are strong in one of the most crucial position groups: offensive line. According to PFF, the Browns’ offensive line ranks second entering 2017, thanks to the additions of JC Tretter and Kevin Zeitler in free agency. While it’s safe to assume Cleveland will be able to bully many front sevens in the running game, it’s also reasonable to figure they will face a stacked box often. Not to worry, though, last season both the line and Isaiah Crowell proved they can handle the extra defender: Crowell ranked second in the NFL in yards per carry against a stacked box (5.88 YPC). So what is the Browns’ offense missing? A QB that can effectively push the ball downfield and take advantage of man coverage. To this point, Kizer looks like he can play that part.

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