Browns

Deshone Kizer was fine but let’s all take a breath, OK?

Whooo boy, do you feel that sting in your neck this morning? It is a case of severe whiplash from the fanbase of the Cleveland Browns pivoting from meager attempts to prop up Brock Osweiler as the starting quarterback to declaring Deshone Kizer the franchise quarterback whom we have all been waiting to see after a comeback victory against the New Orleans Saints, 20-14.

Too much emphasis being placed on the first Browns football game of the 2017 season is to be expected. It has been seven months since we have seen the team finish off their 1-15 record to acquire the No. 1 overall pick during their full blown rebuild. The foundation of the franchise was rebuilt from the line of scrimmage out this offseason with three new offensive line starters, a potentially elite pass rusher, and new coaches.1 A cautious optimism is warranted, but the expectation from the fanbase should be for an improved, but non-playoff team that frustrates us more than exhilarates.

The same should be said of the current quarterback competition. Head coach Hue Jackson has been consistent in his messaging that he is going to allow each of the three quarterbacks the opportunity to impress him, and he would make his decision based on their overall body of work.2 Everyone in the current quarterback room has significant flaws that will be exposed at times when they play. Osweiler’s inaccuracy and poor reading of defenses, Kessler’s inability to fit the ball into tight windows especially on mid-range to deep routes, and Kizer’s poor footwork leading to inaccurate throws (not to mention his overall lack of experience in the NFL showing up in multiple ways). Jackson has crafted a career out of masking the weaknesses of his quarterbacks while highlighting their strengths,3 so it is not unreasonable to expect whichever quarterback he selects to perform as best they can.

Osweiler has been telling people to go watch the film on him to determine his ability at quarterback. Well, we do finally have some of him in a brown and orange uniform to go along with his tape from the Houston Texans and Denver Broncos. Guess what, he’s the same guy he has been as a NFL starter as inconsistency and an inability to create led to a 6-for-14 day with just 42 yards. He cannot blame the protection as the offensive line did their job. To his credit, he put the blame for his performance on his own shoulders. “I don’t even think a finger got laid on me. Those guys did a tremendous job up front.” Osweiler noted. “We made some plays on the third drive, and we were able to move the ball down the field. It was just unfortunate that we couldn’t end the drive with a touchdown. Once again, that falls onto me.”4

Kessler has fallen far since Jackson proclaimed that Osweiler and Kizer would have to take it from him when referring to the starting spot, which Osweiler did for this start against the Saints. Kessler did nothing to force that decision to be reversed as he went 5-for-10 for 47 yards though he did lead the Browns on a short field touchdown drive, which included three of his completions.

Then, there was Kizer. In case you missed the game or want a refresh, here are all of Kizer’s pass attempts as he went 11-for-18 for 184 yards and the game-winning touchdown. It does not show the three sacks he took or the three runs he made for 12 yards on scrambles, but it does show how he was able to make two downfield plays along with the ball popping out of his hand much better than the other two quarterbacks who went before him.

A bunch of good can be gathered from Kizer’s start. He didn’t Derek Anderson the screen passes (i.e. throw them as hard as he could to players just a few yards away from him). He kept calm in the pocket. His eyes remained downfield as he maneuvered smoothly to open areas to throw. He fit the ball into some tight windows. Third down throws tended to be one yard beyond the marker instead of before it. Kizer even suffered from his receivers dropping a couple of catchable balls.

There was also some problematic items as well. His propensity to lose his feet leading to inaccuracy showed up on a few occasions. The biggest item though was his head. Watch those throws again and notice the helmet turn- or lack thereof- from Kizer. He is staring down one side of the field at best and probably one receiver on many of those plays. Against an aggressive team that is blitzing like crazy it can work because the defensive backs need to focus on the receivers and not the quarterback, but Kelly Holcomb can tell Kizer all about what happens if he tries that against a team that drops into a zone.

To his and the coaching staff’s credit, Kizer recognized the type of defense the Saints were going to give him. It is worth tracking though if he continues to do so in future weeks. As Kizer explained “The Saints were straight forward with what they were going to do. They are going to play you man, they are going to blitz you and if they are going to do that you have to be able to take shots on a team like that. We dialed them up at the right time.”

Now that the first game is in the books, everyone needs to take a breath. Here’s an exercise Alan Jaeger taught me to use with my pitchers that you can try out yourself. Close your eyes and as you take a nice big breath inwards, rise up on both of your feet until you are propped up on your toes. When you descend downwards, do so slowly as you breath out. Repeat a few times to regain your mindset that watching a rookie quarterback take advantage of football players that won’t make any team’s final 53 man roster should not have you drastically change your opinion of him.

The Browns were smart to put Kizer third. Just as the Houston Texans did with Deshaun Watson and the Chicago Bears did with Mitchell Trubisky, having the rookies go against backups and fringe players allowed them to get their first taste of NFL action without having to go against the true NFL veterans. Each of these rookies has created a buzz after succeeding in these circumstances, but failure would have meant more than success as they did what they were supposed to do.

Kizer had a positive game, and it was a step Kizer needed to make in order push himself into the starting position for the Browns, which could and perhaps should happen for their Week 1 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He just isn’t a franchise quarterback because he made some throws on guys who will be playing in the Arena Football League this season. And, if Jackson doesn’t tab him as the starter for the second preseason game, then it is not the end of the world either.

Just keep listening to coach Jackson. He’s been the voice of reason through it all for the team and we as fans can learn a few things from him. “The guy made some plays at the end that gave us a chance to win, but there is still so much growth that needs to happen for this young player.” Jackson noted “We all know he is talented, as I said before, but there are still some things he needs to do better.”

  1. Bob Wylie is the new offensive line coach and Clyde Simmons is the new defensive line coach. []
  2. I assume this includes practice, film study, and leadership alongside what we see in preseason games. []
  3. Kessler had a 92 QB rating in 2016 for his latest work of alchemy. []
  4. On the first two series, Osweiler said “Anytime you struggle to get into a rhythm early, you are going to have a slow start to the game. That is what you saw tonight. There are no excuses for that. Honestly, that comes onto my shoulders.” []

  • MartyDaVille

    Yep, deep breaths are in order. The 4th quarter of the first exhibition game isn’t all that much of a test, although passing the test is obviously better than flunking it.

    I remember Charlie Frye coming in during the second half of his first exhibition game and lighting up the place. Much excitement ensued.

    But I think you’re too hard on Osweiler. He was hurt by penalties and less-than-stellar receiver play. He didn’t get much help.

  • akzipper

    RG3 looked amazing last preseason…against starters. We all know how that turned out.

  • Harv

    – Physically, Kizer as advertised. Obviously does not mean he’ll be a competent NFL starting QB. But hey, sure beats NOT looking like you have the physical tools to win in this division, amiright?

    – Like others, I like the RB Dayes. Not in a Ben Gay way, but that he makes decisive interior mini-moves when he smells the hole. There’s no reason a guy like that shouldn’t make this lousy roster.

    – The Saints’ roster bubble guy TommyLee Lewis is what Corey Coleman wants to be if and when he learns to play football. You know, a little guy playing with explosion, hunger and confidence. A little early for a Justin Gilbert comparison, but this is reminiscent me of the episode of Taxi when someone asks: “Jim! Look at you, you’re a mess! When are you going to get it together?” Insane, disheveled Jim ponders, then replies: “August!” It’s August, Corey, grow a pair. Maybe Gregg Williams can also coach just one offensive player, because there’s some first round entitlement wafting from your direction.

    – The QBs cannot reach whatever potential is there without some competent receivers. Haven’t seen a worse overall group.

    – Cam Erving only makes me sad now. Unclear whether he can’t or won’t. But in the words of Chuck Noll, “I’m not going to give a guy a reason to play football.” Let’s move on before he causes more concussions, his own or teammates.

    – On an up note, Garrett looks like he’ll be worthy. Thanks for not falling into overthink this year, Sashi.

  • Greg Popelka

    Irving is the kid everyone got mad at in junior high school football because he never knew what the heck he was doing.
    Can you imagine him in the days of sending plays in with rotating guards?

    At least with Kessler, the Browns have stability in that crucial 3rd quarterback role.

    We all know that all their quarterbacks play at some point. It doesn’t matter who starts when.

    What must Jackson be thinking about this group of receivers vs. his Cinc unit. It’s usually ridiculous when fans think they know who a team should draft. Not so, with receivers and pretty much every Browns regime.

    Kizer: eh, let the fans overreact. What else have they got?

  • BenRM
  • Garry_Owen

    Anyone that thinks we have any answers now doesn’t know what the questions are. I followed the game on ESPN’s gamecast last night, and thought all night long, “Yep, pretty much same old Browns offense.” Enjoyed the Kizer exhibition, but not recognizing a single name on the Saints defense, took it for the exhibition that it was. Turns out, Kizer was a pretty decent college QB last year, and plays pretty well against (presumably) last year’s (or recent years’) collegians. I would hope so.

  • BenRM

    I also want to say that, while Brock wasn’t good, his receivers weren’t giving him much/any help.

    There were some overthrows, sure…but real NFL receivers make those catches. (See Sanu’s catch of Ryan’s overthrown pass last night…sorry can’t find a gif.)

  • mgbode

    Brock isn’t even tall enough to catch this overthrow

    https://twitter.com/Ryan_McCrystal/status/895807975641686020

  • mgbode

    I am being completely unfair to Brock. The receiver should have known it would be thrown to the wrong spot (let’s be fair, maybe the WR did run the wrong route – somebody had it wrong though).

    https://twitter.com/AJMilackNFL/status/895801782982418433

  • BenRM

    That one was bad for sure. But wasn’t there one off DeValve’s fingertips. And I seem to remember another one that looked like a lack of effort from …Louis maybe? And Britt’s lack of footwork didn’t help on the TD that wasn’t…or his inability to separate on any of those endzone routes.

    Brock doesn’t make me excited. But I still think Kizer is far off from being an NFL starter.

    Maybe give him some reps with the 1’s next game. But I wouldn’t go further than that.

  • Garry_Owen

    A lot of that is also rhythm. More reps together can help.

  • mgbode

    The pass to Britt in the endzone was pretty. Not much more Osweiler could have done with that one. Overall though, he looked like the same guy who played for the Texans last year.

  • CBiscuit

    So what are the questions?

    (Hey was THAT one of the questions?)

    (or how about that one?)

    This is getting to be like an Inception of questions, so I’m not really sure if I’m on the right track. Just tell me when I can buy a Kizer jersey. I did buy some Browns tix vs. the Chargers in LA, so I’m not sure I’m properly pumping the brakes on this Browns fever.

  • Garry_Owen

    Let’s not read too much into that, though. I don’t think Osweiler is a world-beater, but that was his first play with a group of receivers with whom he’s basically had 3 days of solid work. If that’s what he looks like next week, get out the torchforks (but no need to light them yet).

  • BenRM

    I still want that guy to get his butt handed to him for a few regular season games until I’m more comfortable with Kizer.

    Kizer was basically playing against competition worse than he played against at ND. He should do well. And he still looked like ND Kizer a lot of the time.

  • mgbode

    Yes, the same pause I’m placing on extolling Kizer’s virtues can be said about Osweiler’s issues. The one bit of difference is that Brock just looks like the same guy he was last year.

    I don’t care if Hue wants to start him against the Giants to give him a fair shot, but he just hasn’t changed my mind that I have no desire to watch him be the main starter for the Browns this season- even accounting for our other options.

  • mgbode

    I’ll explain next week sometime why I’d rather roll with the rookie- if he continues to show he can handle it as he gets more responsibility.

  • Garry_Owen

    Buy the jersey. Buy 2 of them. Buy the whole rack. I don’t care what you do with your money, as long as you’re not funding ISIS (but then, I’m not who you should worry about having that info – or am I? Maybe that’s the question, and it certainly wasn’t answered last night. Bwahahah.)

    How many tix did you buy? Because, you know, I’ve never been to LA before . . .

  • BenRM

    Fair enough. And I’d like to see him have some time with the 1’s next game, so we have a better point of comparison.

  • Garry_Owen

    Sure. Fair. Honestly, I have no actual desire to see any of these guys start. But one of them will (probably all of them, including a bunch that aren’t on the roster), so I’ll just take whatever guy finds himself there. If it’s Osweiler, fine.

  • Pat Leonard

    “Kessler’s inability to fit the ball into tight windows especially on mid-range to deep routes” – with the exception of that intermediate to deep throw to Rannell Hall that he was able to fit into a tight window 🙂

    But no, I honestly agree for the most part. Probably going to wind up being an issue at some point.

  • mgbode

    I prefer Kizer get his first start of the preseason against Tampa (Game 3)

  • RGB

    There will probably be more Browns fans than Chargers fans in the, ummm, Stub Hub Center.

  • RGB

    Our current WRs would make Ray proud.

  • CBiscuit

    Two tix. And based on my wife’s blank stare reaction with a twist of cringe at the end, you’re in!

    RGB will be there. He’s providing the refreshments. All free.

  • RGB

    I think the Savannah Bananas have more fans than the Los Angeles Chargers.

  • CBiscuit

    Yeah, and it’s a tiny little venue (fun seeing USMNT once). Will be like watching college ball. I mean with the venue…not the talent on the field. Umm.

  • Garry_Owen

    Makes me so sad, because I really liked Coleman in college. He was my guy! But you’re definitely right. Blech.

  • Garry_Owen

    Sweet. That includes airfare, right?

  • RGB

    From what I’ve read, the Chargers have been received in LA with all the enthusiasm as a case of leprosy.

  • RGB

    Flying out of Savannah sucks. I have to head back to Medina in October, and flights into Hopkins and Akron/Canton are still in the friggin $800 dollar range.

  • Garry_Owen

    Flying out of anywhere sucks.

  • Garry_Owen

    I don’t even want a six pack of leprosy.

    #FridayHumor

  • RGB

    Atlanta has great fares, but it’s 4 hours away.

  • Garry_Owen

    And you have to drive through Atlanta.

  • RGB

    Hartsfield-Jackson is on the south end of Atlanta, so it’s not too bad arriving from the south. If you have to come in from the north, of leave and go north…yeah, yuck.

  • Petefranklin

    I’m as cynical as a person can be, but I am reasonably sure that Kizer will be a winning QB in 2019. He just passes my eye test for now. As long as he can learn to keep that head on a swivel I am OK with some footwork and accuracy issues because the threat of the deep ball opens up everything on offense. I loved that pass on the outside blitz that he threw on the money right as the pressure was getting in his face.

  • Garry_Owen

    As an Ohioan, I probably shouldn’t complain. Marching through Georgia is a lark.

  • Harv

    hey, may have been overthrown but at least it was late.

  • RGB

    He seems like a smart kid. I think the staff can work out his footwork….
    Hue: Ok, DeShon, left foot back first, then count your steps. At step 5 your X WR should come open in the flat.
    As opposed to…
    Brian Kelly: WHAT THE !@#$ WERE YOU DOING? THAT WASN’T THE !@#$%^& PLAY I CALLED. YOU SUCK. SIT DOWN!!

  • CBiscuit

    I like Atlanta. I go for business once a year and stay in Buckhead and eat fried chicken and mint julips at South City Kitchen like a real Yankee tourist dork…and don’t mind it one bit. The bars and stars bumper stickers give me a shudder every now and then…but it’s a good town.

  • RGB

    We’re in ATL probably every month or so, visiting friends. We spend most of our time in Little Five Points, or Decatur. Our friends are kind of, ummm, counter culture-ish, and loathe Buckhead.

  • tsm

    Britt did look so good. Pryor would have caught it. A definite downgrade at WR.

  • Garry_Owen

    Definite? I don’t know about that.

  • tsm

    How about probable? Just one game, but he didn’t show me much.

  • Garry_Owen

    Perhaps. I have no idea. I think we all have an over-inflated opinion of Mr. Pryor.

  • nj0

    I remember being excited about a Syndric Steptoe preseason performance.

  • nj0

    I thought Brock didn’t look different from last year. I know this isn’t what’s happening, but it’s like he throws the ball to a predetermined spot on the field regardless if the receiver is there or not.

  • nj0

    To quote the late, great Roddy Piper: Just when you think you have all the answers, I change the questions.