The Cleveland Browns having turnover at quarterback is a tale as old as time, but the story will be getting a new chapter as this week former Chicago Bears backup P.J. Walker is set to become the team's 36th unique starter since 1999 and their third quarterback in this season alone. Starter Deshaun Watson is nursing a shoulder injury and will miss their next contest per Josina Anderson.
The team's backup, rookie quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, is coming off of a three-interception outing in his first game as the starter, meaning that Walker is likely in line to start this weekend against the juggernaut San Francisco 49ers.
After signing a two-year deal with the Bears this offseason to serve as Justin Fields' backup, the emergence of quarterback Tyson Bagent, an undrafted rookie, forced Walker to plummet in Chicago's depth chart. Walker was a casualty of the dreaded roster cutdown day, but the veteran was able to find other employment quickly and signed a one-year deal in Cleveland where he joined the practice squad. Following Watson's aforementioned injury in week three, Walker was elevated, serving initially as a backup behind Thompson-Robinson and now as the starter against one of the league's premier defenses.
Fortunately, his showdown with a loaded 49ers defense will not be the first time that Walker has seen the field as a starter in the NFL, as he accumulated a solid resume over three seasons with the Carolina Panthers before he arrived in Chicago this past offseason.
From 2020 to 2022, Walker served as a backup in coach Matt Rhule's offense, who was also his head coach at Temple University from 2013 to 2016. As a Panther, Walker started in seven games, where he accrued a 4-3 cumulative record. He also made appearances in eight other contests, pushing his totals in Carolina to 1,461 passing yards, five touchdowns, and 11 interceptions.
Before spending time in Carolina and Chicago, Walker had a brief stint with the Indianapolis Colts, signing as an undrafted free agent in 2017. After serving only as a practice squad member for three seasons, Walker signed with the XFL in 2019, where he played on the Houston Roughnecks. After a strong year as the team's starter, logging over 1,400 yards and 16 touchdowns throughout a five-game, COVID-19-shortened season, Walker became one of just a select few XFL players to join the NFL, and he has made the most of his opportunities since earning a second chance in the NFL.
Walker's impending start on Sunday may be tough sledding, unfortunately, as the 49ers field the league's number-one scoring defense. Luckily, the Browns possess the second-best scoring defense, so if Myles Garrett and company can suppress a star-studded San Francisco offense, Walker may be capable of making enough big plays to take Cleveland to victory.