Bengals face second rookie QB of the season in Browns' Cody Kessler

CINCINNATI -- Perhaps a game against the winless Cleveland Browns can help right the ship for the Cincinnati Bengals after two straight losses.

The Bengals are facing their former offensive coordinator, Hue Jackson, now the coach of the Browns, so the offense might look familiar, but the quarterback sure isn't. The Browns are down to rookie quarterback Cody Kessler after injuries to Robert Griffin III and Josh McCown.

The Bengals' defense will likely fair better against Kessler than it did against Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who was contained for a half in a 35-17 Bengals loss on Sunday but played almost a perfect third and fourth quarter. Kessler is the second rookie quarterback they'll face this season after the Cowboys' Dak Prescott, who had a good game against Cincinnati in a 28-14 win.

Here are six Browns players to watch, courtesy of ESPN Browns reporter Pat McManamon:


QB Cody Kessler: The praise is growing for the Browns' rookie quarterback, despite the fact the team has yet to win in his four starts. Kessler, though, is earning respect from teammates and coaches for his approach, preparation and courage in the pocket. Jackson said Kessler is growing play by play, and week by week. And his awareness in the pocket reflects his work ethic. ProFootballFocus.com said that against Tennessee, Kessler's rating was 99.5 when pressured and 124.7 when blitzed.

TE Gary Barnidge: Hope that the Browns remember their tight end surfaced in Tennessee when Barnidge caught the first pass of the game. The seam route went for 43 yards, Barnidge's biggest play of the season. Kessler somehow forgot the tight end seam route in his first few starts, but the Browns designed the first play of the game to go to Barnidge. The more he's involved, the better the offense.

C Cam Erving: Two words sum up this situation: Geno Atkins. Erving returned from a bruised lung in Tennessee but did not play well, as the Titans consistently pressured up the middle. At least twice Jurrell Casey lined up over Erving on passing downs. On both plays he blew by Erving and was on Kessler before he barely had a chance to get set. ProFootballFocus.com graded Erving as the worst center in the NFL on Sunday. Atkins is one of the best interior defensive players in the league.


CB Joe Haden: The Browns say they are not growing impatient with Haden, but it would be understandable if they were. Twice this season, Haden missed games after straining a groin muscle in practice. Haden also missed 11 games last season and was slowed in the preseason with a hamstring issue. Haden is one of the Browns' defensive leaders, and when he's on the field he's the team's best defender. With A.J. Green awaiting, the Browns badly need Haden back on he field this Sunday.

S Derrick Kindred: The rookie had a rough day in Tennessee, twice arriving late on deep throws -- one a touchdown. Kindred has to learn, but those two plays show how learning can be tough. With Jordan Poyer sidelined with a lacerated kidney and with Kindred struggling, the Browns' safety position is in flux.

NT Danny Shelton: Shelton deserves credit for the way he's played all season. He has been active and noticeable in the middle. Shelton had five run stops and his first career sack in Tennessee. ProFootballFocus has him the eighth-best interior defender in the league and third in run defense. Shelton has worked hard to be better, and as a result he has grown as a player.