The Cleveland Browns were one of the most active teams in the league the weekend of the draft last spring. They drafted the likes of Myles Garret, David Njoku and Jabrill Peppers, all first rounders who have the potential to shape their franchise for years to come. None of their selections have the potential to shape their franchise more than their second-round pick, Deshone Kizer out of Notre Dame.
Cleveland has infamously had issues finding a franchise quarterback for over a decade now. Last season they entered the season hoping Robert Griffin III was the answer, only for him to get injured after one game. Throughout the year’s quarterbacks like Brandon Weeden, Cody Kessler and Johnny Manziel have disappointed the franchise proving not to be a long-term fix under center.
Kizer was not supposed to start this season but managed to out play Brock Osweiler and Kessler over the first three games of the preseason. He sat out of game four in preparation for the Browns season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
So how did Kizer win the job, and what should Browns fans expect to see out of their newest quarterback in 2017?
The play that turned the most heads by Kizer in the preseason was his final pass in the Browns opener against the New Orleans Saints.
On a fourth down and two on a do or die drive for the game, Kizer let it fly towards the end zone and found fellow rookie Jordan Payton for a 45-yard touchdown to win the game. The quarterback sees his receiver beat the cornerback down the side line. He stays in the pocket despite the pressure and hits his man in stride with a well-placed pass.
His most impressive downfield pass of the game, though, may have been the play just before.
The rookie quarterback has a fairly clean pocket. His check down option in open in the flat on third and long as the Saints are in a prevent defense. Kizer pump fakes, and one of the Saints deep linebackers jumps towards the sideline to prevent a catch and run by the running back. This opens receiver Rannel Hall down the field. Kizer finds him to turn a third and 27 to fourth and two.
Kizer’s deep ball was one of the most appealing part of his game coming out of Notre Dame. He will allow the Browns to have a more vertical passing game and take full advantage of some of the speed and deep ball potential of the Browns receivers. He is confident in his arm and always has is eyes downfield.
His deep ball was not perfect this preseason, though.
On this play during the Browns week 2 matchup against the New York Giants Kizer overthrew Njoku on what would have been a touchdown. Kizer drops back into the pocket, and as the rush comes he calmly steps forward and lets it fly for Njoku. His poise in the pocket is impressive, and a little better than what you would expect from a player only playing in his second game at NFL speed. That is a pass he has to hit on though.
Inaccuracy haunted Kizer in college. He was never a precision passer and has trouble hitting his receivers when they are not absolutely wide open. The passing windows in the NFL will be even smaller meaning the rookie will have to greatly improve to survive at this level. As we expected, his accuracy was not fixed over the course on one summer training camp and he threw many errant passes in his first few games.
Even some of the completed passes above where a little bit off target. Kizer was playing against much worse defensive units than what he will on a regular basis in the NFL, and even then, had issues fitting his passes into space.
He did seem to gain confidence and accuracy as he got more familiar with NFL play, though. He completed a lot of shorter routine passes, though. His decision making was good for the most part and he was safe with the ball, at least for the first two games of the preseason.
Kizer’s first real experience against a first team NFL defense came in week three against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
It was also far and away his worst performance.
Kizer’s lone interception of the preseason came early on in the second quarter of that game.
The quarterback stares down his receiver nearly the entire way. He tries to get the ball into space between two defensive backs, but a Bucs linebacker reads Kizer and jumps the pass. He gets a hand on it, tips it in the air and it is intercepted.
He got away with only that interception, but the Tampa defenders easily could have snagged a few more.
His decision making was awful. Kizer threw a lot of passes that there was no reason to try and he had a habit to stare down his receivers. He could not get much going, and he looked like a struggling rookie quarterback.
Kizer comes with a lot of flaws and will most likely struggle heavily this regular season. He will most likely be in the bottom tier of NFL quarterbacks, and possibly one of the worst in the NFL.
And that is ok.
The Browns are years away from competing in the NFL and plan to yet again sit near the bottom of the standings. All of the pressure will be off of Kizer this year. He won’t be expected to win many games and neither Kessler not Kevin Hogan should threaten his starting spot. Kizer has all the time in the world to develop and adjust to the NFL.
Cleveland hopes that Kizer will spearhead the new youth movement in Cleveland, and be a huge piece of what they hope to build over the next few years. They have a young roster as they hope to develop talent nearly everywhere. We will not know for another few years, but the Browns are hoping Kizer gives them a reason to finally retire their infamous quarterback jersey.
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