DeShone Kizer has the size, make up, and cannon arm fans of the Cleveland Browns have been waiting to see in a quarterback. From the moment the Browns selected Notre Dame quarterback Kizer in the second round of the NFL Draft, the team’s front office and coaching staff were ecstatic that they were able to get a guy they believe can be a franchise quarterback in the future with the 52nd-overall pick.
Following this week’s minicamp, that excitement continued. While head coach Hue Jackson has made it known that he loves the rookie’s skill set, the quarterbacks coach talked highly about Kizer for the first time. Jackson had compared Kizer to fellow AFC North quarterbacks Ben Roethlisberger and Joe Flacco. David Lee has now done the same, per cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot.
“What I see in him is a big, strong, guy which is defined in this division by Ben and by Joe Flacco and this kid’s in that mold. He’s 6-4 3/4, he’s got a 10-inch hand, he’s smart, he can run, he can move. He’s not (Bills QB) Tyrod Taylor, but he can run and make plays. He’s got a great future. He’s just a long way from being ready. … But he’s climbing on it and he’s making progress.
“He’s got a lot in front of him, and it’s different. It’s not playing Michigan anymore. It’s a different schedule, so he’s going through a lot right now and his head’s swimming but when he gets it, and he gets the lower body, he’s got a chance to be special.”
Lee has coached Tony Romo, Vinny Testaverde, Chad Pennington, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Tyrod Taylor during his 30 years in college football and 13 in the NFL, so he has seen different skill sets and knows how to judge a quarterback.
“He’s got an extremely strong arm and if we can get his fundamentals and his lower body good, you don’t touch his release. He’s got the most beautiful release and whip in his arm.”
The rookie’s biggest problem seems to be his inconsistencies with his footwork, which affects the way he throws the ball. If he can get control of that, the sky seems to be the limit.
“The first thing fundamentally is the long stride,” he said. “It just came with him (from Notre Dame), and that really affected his accuracy. He’s all over it, and then he’s awry. He’s all over it and he misses again. And that has been the No. 1 thing. Because when he gets a base and he’s shortens his stride and he steps and throws it, it’s a thing of beauty.
Kizer has plenty to learn, but he has enough self awareness to understand it. When he’s not sleeping, the rookie appears to be ramping on the NFL game, whether it’s studying the playbook, watching film, or working on other ways to improve his game.
During mini-camp, both second-year quarterback Cody Kessler and Kizer were seen playing with the first-team offense, while Brock Osweiler was throwing to the second-team. Although the coaching staff downplayed it, that’s pretty significant. First-team reps are never wasted. I’m sure Jackson and Lee want to see how he does with the starters and what he brings to the table with the team’s best players; along with how he performs in tough situations. The fact that Kizer has already earned those snaps shows how much Jackson and company believe in their rookie gunslinger.
Kizer knows that he has plenty of work ahead of him before he even steps foot on the field for a regular season game, let alone being named the starting quarterback. Here’s what he had to say during minicamp, from clevelandbrowns.com:
“It would be really naive for me to say that I’m in a position to go start … I’d be completely wrong.” Kizer, showing good self-awareness, explained his reasons for seeing it this way, ranging from the need to enhance his consistency to learning the playbook, to better understanding game planning and reading NFL defenses. …That draft day comment was quickly taken back as soon as I figured out where I need to go. There’s so much that I need to learn … I just have to put myself in a position to compete one day.”
Executive Vice President of Football Operations Sashi Brown doesn’t want pressure placed on Kizer, but it seems as though the quarterback is smart enough to know not to get too far in over his head. He has expectations for himself that will keep him in line, rather than believing that he should be the Day 1 starter. Then again, maybe there’s chance that he can be the 2017 version of Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott.
Whether Kizer receives more first-team reps in training camp will be something to keep an eye on, but as of right now, Jackson and Lee seem to be excited about their rookie quarterback no matter where he may be listed on the team’s depth chart.