Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson announced that quarterback DeShone Kizer will be the starting quarterback in the team’s third preseason game versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Saturday. The move to the starting spot for the third preseason game looks to be setting up Kizer’s eventual naming as the Browns starting quarterback for the regular season. The news of Kizer starting was a bit of surprise to me, but in the end it was the correct call.
Now the regular season starting job has not been given to Kizer completely yet, but everything Hue Jackson said on Wednesday trends that way. “I think he [Kizer] has a right to earn the opening start by the way he plays, and I think he knows that,” Jackson reiterated in his Wednesday press conference. “He is trending in the right direction with our offensive football team.” Jackson went on to say this about why he has not put the quarterback competition to “bed” yet like he stated he would on Monday. “Well, it is in the bed,” Jackson responded with laughter. “It is definitely in the bed with me so I am very close to putting it to bed. Yeah, you guys liked that one, huh? Alright. Again, a lot of things can happen over the next several weeks. You just never know, but I feel good about the covers that are on top of me right now. We are doing well.” So, even if Kizer has not been named the Week 1 starter, it sure does look like that it is fait accompli.
This is the overall right call for the Browns. DeShone Kizer has simply outperformed both Brock Osweiler and Cody Kessler throughout training camp and preseason. In the two games thus far in the preseason, Kizer has completed 61.3% of his passes for 258 yards and a touchdown for a 98.6 passer rating, while also rushing for 47 yards and a touchdown. Osweiler has completed 54.5% of his passes for 67 yards and an interception for 41.3 passer rating, while rushing for 16 yards. Kessler has completed 70.6% of his passes for 97 yards for a 84.7 passer rating, while also rushing for 11 yards and fumbling once.
Osweiler struggled with accuracy throughout the preseason. He missed targets and even when he completed passes, his ball placement was not good. He was unable to lead the offense to a touchdown drive this preseason. He showed who he was, not a starting quality quarterback. Kessler was really disappointing. He came in as the favorite for the starting spot, but his performance in trying to remain there was lackluster. His performance was underwhelming. He continued to struggle with pocket presence and the ability to threaten the defense downfield. It just seemed like he was sort of resigned to not being the starter. His performance was just downright weird.
Kizer showed his big arm and big play ability. He showed his ability to move in the pocket and handle pressure. The offense was the most successful under his command and that cannot be discounted. Yes, he showed some problems that must be worked upon. He held onto the ball too long at times, causing self-inflicted sacks. He is still learning the mental aspect of the game and the transition to the NFL. But, I believe he is the best quarterback on the roster and he deserves to start for the Cleveland Browns in Week 1.
Many of the rebuttals to the news of Kizer getting the start have been that it is too early for him to start, he is not ready and could get hurt. Well, that is a fair point, but in the end I think you go with the best and Kizer is the best option. In terms of injury, this is football and injuries happen. The offense that the young quarterback will be leading is actually a good situation for him. He will be behind an improved line that should be the strength of the unit. He has a pair of backs that can be the backbone of the offense and center the offensive philosophy on running the ball. So, the timing may not be perfect, but the situation is good. He earned the start.