Deshone Kizer is far from a franchise quarterback, and that is ok

Game Film, Gif Breakdowns, NFL

Mansur Shaheen

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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Quickhits: Patrick Mahomes turns head with impressive deep bomb on the run

Game Film, Quickhits

Mansur Shaheen

Patrick Mahomes is the most exciting quarterback prospect in the NFL today. The Chiefs first round pick has a cannon for an arm and the full confidence that he can make every throw. We will not see much of him in 2017, as he will develop underneath long-time starter Alex Smith for his rookie year. Though, after an impressive and dazzling preseason, many around the league are excited to see what the rookie may have to offer down the line.

He had an up and down game against the Titans to close out his rookie preseason. Mahomes made a few mistakes, but he also made a few flashy plays that caught the attention of the entire league. His second quarter completion to Demarcus Robinson was probably the most impressive of the night.

Mahomes took the snap from under center and ran a play action. He had a clean pocket in front of him as he went through his progressions. The rookie managed to look off the safety as he scanned the left side of the field, and then scrambled to his right as the protection broke down. He made his way towards the right sideline and managed to fire off an absolute bomb to his receiver while getting hit on the run. The pass was completed and Mahomes finished off his rookie preseason in epic fashion.

 

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Jay Cutler was at his best and worst in Dolphins debut

Game Film, Gif Breakdowns, NFL

Mansur Shaheen

Jay Cutler made a return to the NFL on Thursday night, but this time in the aqua green of the Miami Dolphins instead of his usual Chicago Bears blue. Many feared he would have a lot of rust on him after Cutler retired earlier this offseason to join Fox Sports NFL coverage. Even before his retirement he was coming off shoulder surgery after playing only five games last year.

He has familiarity in the system of his former offensive coordinator, and now Miami Dolphins head coach, Adam Gase’s system. There were still many wondering why the Dolphins would pull him out of retirement after quarterback Ryan Tannehill saw his season end with a knee injury in training camp. The former Bears quarterback was never much more than an average quarterback anyways and after a few abysmal years before his retirement, many criticized the Dolphins for betting on him to lead them to playoffs for the second straight year.

Cutler managed to hit the ground running, though, and seemed in control of the offense on the first few offensive possessions of Miami’s game against the Baltimore Ravens on Thursday. Miami ran a no huddle offense under Cutler for the most part and he was effective.

The quarterback showed his veteran pocket presence on his first pass of the game.

His first check is on Julius Thomas (#89), who is covered on the right side of the field. He then turns towards the middle of the field where both Jarvis Landry (#14) and Jay Ajayi (#23) ran. His eyes instantly turn towards Landry, looking off the middle and weakside linebacker. Ajayi is open for a decent pick up, and is able to turn up field for the first down as the weakside linebacker was late reacting because he was looking at Landry.

It is a small move, but it earned his team an easy completion and a first down.

He also showed a bit of fancy feet in the pocket later on the drive.

Cutler takes the snap out of shot gun and drops to pass. He looks to his left, but his first option in covered. Baltimore’s edge rushers wrap around the pocket, forcing Cutler to scamper forward. The interior of Baltimore’s pass rush gets pushed around the edge as well, though, giving the quarterback room to step up in the pocket. He runs forward and then launches a pass towards the sideline to Devante Parker.

He stays composed and his pass to Parker was near perfect. It was in a spot where only his receiver can make a play on it. It also allows him to quickly turn up field for a few extra yards after the catch.

This play was called back for holding, so it did not show up in the box score. It still is an early sign of the potential Cutler-Parker partnership we will see this season.

He was very calm and collected in the pocket all day.

On this play later on the same drive, Cutler calmly completes a pass while standing strong in the pocket as the pressure reaches him. After a fake to Damien Williams (#26) in the backfield Cutler turns around to almost instant pressure. He does not panic, or even try to leave the pocket. Cutler quickly scans the field and sees an open Parker streaking over the middle for a huge gain.

Cutler has always been a tough player who never was scared to take hits. He does not panic in the pocket and knows when to rid of the ball. He rarely extends a play when he doesn’t have to, but also is not scared to leave the pocket.

There were always a few issues with Cutler, though, and they did rear their head in his Miami debut.

He always has had the gunslinger label attached to him, and his poor decision making has haunted him for years. Cutler’s reputation may have outgrown him a bit over the years, but he does have plays, or entire games, where his entire brain seems to shut off and he makes awful decisions.

Cutler seemed to have a lapse in judgement and almost threw an interception into double coverage.

This first quarter pass was his worst of the game. Parker was the intended receiver on the play and was being smothered by the defensive back. The deep safety read Cutler, and quickly got over to the sideline to break up the play and almost come down with an interception. Cutler failed to read the safety coming over the middle, a mistake a veteran quarterback of his caliber should not be making.

Later he threw a pass away dangerously on a broken screen play.

The Dolphins allow the pass rushers to quickly speed by them towards Cutler to set up a screen for Williams. The running back is slow getting off of his route, though and Cutler is forced to throw it away as the play breaks down. While usually a quarterback in this scenario would throw the ball towards the feet of his running back, instead Cutler threw it away over his head into the flat.

It’s a very simple error that can easily lead to trouble. If the Ravens were playing zone coverage and had a linebacker drop into that area it may have led to a Ravens pick 6.

Cutler is a good quarterback who was never truly as bad as his reputation suggests. He does mentally switch off sometimes, and make the same mistakes you would expect from a college quarterback. The Dolphins will be willing to take the good with the bad this season as they desperately hope to reach Ryan Tannehill and reach the playoffs again.

As Cutler gets more and more familiar with the offense and his new teammates he should only get better. He obviously comes with baggage, but the Dolphins only need him to be just above average to repeat their success from last season.

 

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Taco Charlton had a rough introduction to NFL football

Game Film, Gif Breakdowns, NFL

Mansur Shaheen

The Dallas Cowboys drafted Michigan’s Taco Charlton with the 28th overall pick of April’s NFL draft earlier this year. Charlton was only a one year starter in Ann Arbor, but his size, length and athleticism give him the physical tools necessary to be a weapon on the Cowboys defensive line one day.

There are also many question marks surrounding Charlton entering his rookie year, though. He did not play much for the Wolverines during his first few years with them, which leaves many asking why. When he did start in his senior year he showed flashes of brilliance, but also tended to disappear at times. He did not use his size or length to his advantage as much as he should have and even got bullied at times by some of the better tackles he faced.

He got his first taste of NFL action last Thursday during the league’s annual Hall of Fame Game against the Arizona Cardinals in Canton, and it was a little rough.

Charlton played for almost the entire first quarter and into the second quarter. Both teams benched many of their key players and the rookie was lining up across the Cardinals backup offensive line. He played on both the left and right defensive edge.

He was held at bay for much of the game on both sides of the line by the Cardinals linemen.

On all three of the above plays he got little to no defensive penetration. He was simply out-muscled repeatedly. Charlton has a habit of just lazily diving into a blocker and just trying to shove him off instead of using his longer arms and athleticism to his advantage. Despite his 6’6”, 280lb frame Charlton still does not have the strength to just bulldoze an NFL offensive lineman. He does not leverage his weight well, and it leads to him getting pushed around while defending both the pass and the run.

He did manage to make good use of his spin move that was one of his most feared tactics while at Michigan.

Charlton does a good job balancing his weight while approaching the man blocking him. He squares himself then leans into the block with one shoulder. The rusher then quickly swings his hips and whips around to spin by his man. If done correctly, like Charlton did in the plays above, it can leave a blocker being left in the dust.

If Charlton does not leverage his weight well and fails to really get his feet planted before going into his spin then the move becomes ineffective.

On this play, he comes off the snap and instantly tries to beat the tackle around the edge. He is held at bay, and decides to try to spin back towards the inside to get around him. Charlton stumbles through the spin though, and loses his footing. The tackle is easily able to deal with his spin and force him around the quarterback, removing him from the play.

Charlton was unable to get his footing in the first place because he was simply outmatched by his opponent. It looks like he tried a rip move towards the beginning of his rush, and almost entirely whiffed. He never truly settles his feet or even squares himself and stumbles the entire way while getting bullied by a backup offensive lineman.

The NFL is a much stronger and faster league then anything Charlton has played in the past. Many of his struggles on Thursday can just be attributed to the fact that he is not accustomed to playing at that speed yet. This is an issue many rookies face, and one that he should probably be able to put behind him a few weeks into the regular season if he gets regular playing time.

Arizona tested him late in the first quarter, and Blaine Gabbert left him in the dirt.

The Cardinals are running a read option with Gabbert and running back Kerwynn Williams. They let Charlton run free into the backfield. He initially seems to bite on the fake to Williams, but quickly realizes that Gabbert kept it and is scampering towards the sideline. His mind seems to react, but his body can’t keep up. He can’t get fully turned and ends up losing his balance and just falls to the ground untouched in the Cardinals backfield.

He clearly read the play properly, but got too far ahead of himself and could not adjust in time to chase out Gabbert. The play went for minimal gain anyways, and he did do a great job recovering as he would have been the first man to the ball carrier had Gabbert not just stepped out of bounds.

Charlton did not impress much in his first NFL appearance. It could have gone better, but he did show some flashes of the potential he was drafted on. He has around a month left before week 1 to work on his craft and adjust to the higher level of play. He should only get better from here, and Cowboys fans should keep close watch on his development over the next few weeks of preseason.

 

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