Browns Quarterback Review: Week One, Pittsburgh

Welcome to 2017 Cleveland Browns football! I’m pumped to be reviewing weekly quarterback play for the Browns- something not many writers can say with a straight face when talking about Cleveland quarterbacks. Although Week 1 got off to a rocky start and ultimately wasn’t the outcome we all hoped for, there are plenty of positives to take away.

Let me preface this entire review by pointing out two indisputable facts regarding Kizer’s situation. Kizer, at 21 and 250 days, is the third-youngest quarterback to make his debut in the NFL. He is also only the second Browns rookie quarterback (Brandon Weeden) to start his team’s season opener. He is in rare territory here and has many outlying factors working against him. It’s fair to say that the odds were stacked against Kizer in this opener, especially against AFC North favorite and rival Pittsburgh.

Kizer finished 22-of-30 for 222 yards with one touchdown and an interception. He also rushed for a score. The basic numbers here aren’t bad, but he left plenty of yards on the field having taken seven sacks in this game- many of which were more on Kizer than the line in front of him. Kizer said all the right things to reporters post-game regarding the sacks taken: “I’m holding onto the ball a little too long at times,” Kizer said. “I have to make sure that, when the check-down is possible, I hit the check-down. When you have the ability as a quarterback to move with your legs and extend plays, you can become a little complacent. One of the biggest things I learned today is that when there’s an opportunity to get the ball to the running back in the check-down, you do it.”

Kizer missed check-downs when they were presented to him and that’s to be expected from a young quarterback working on his processing. Those things come with time as the game slows down. Experience is only going to work in this kid’s favor.

Let us first take a look at some of the bright spots of from the debut:1

  • The back shoulder throw takes impeccable timing and chemistry with your receiver. Kizer shows that here with Coleman – who had five catches for 53 yards and a touchdown Sunday. Kizer notices Haden doesn’t bite on the initial hitch fake and pump, but still makes the necessary throw to the back shoulder with the cushion Haden gave here.

  • This is by far Kizer’s best throw of the day. A 33-yard dart to beat seven men in coverage was nearly jaw-dropping. Pittsburgh rolls to Cover 3, and he fits a ball to the to the number three receiver perfectly in the second window before the safety and corner can converge on it. This is a high degree of difficulty throw to make, major points here for Kizer.

  • Clutch touchdown throw and catch here. I don’t love the play call on 4th and Goal, because the window is so small, but I enjoy Kizer putting this thing in Coleman’s chest and giving him no choice but to catch it.

  • Beautiful ball here off play-action. This design is an NFL offensive staple, and isn’t a high degree of difficulty, but Kizer nails it. He does a nice job of keeping his footwork crisp and transferring weight into the dart he throws here. Penalty voids the play, but it’s the execution was impeccable.

  • Browns gets the Steelers in Cover 3 again and Kizer makes a perfect throw on a 15 to 12 comeback. This is a great throw given it’s a whole-field design, and his right guard is driven into his face picking up a twist stunt.

  • This one Kizer wants back. He showed an amazing feel in the pocket, sliding and stepping up with ease – something he did all day with relative comfort. Duke Johnson has Haden toasted here, but Kizer doesn’t give it enough air as it misses by a few yards. Kizer struggled noticeably with touch on the deep ball.

  • Another nice display of poise in the pocket as Pittsburgh pushed things into his face. He maintains his balance and hits Britt right in the hands here. This one hurt to watch.

  • David Njoku will be a favorite of Kizer as the season wears on and he finds his rhythm. This was  Kizer’s first completion of the day, and it was beautifully placed where only Njoku could get to it.

  • Another example of Kizer maneuvering in the pocket like a veteran, but he has to maintain poise and complete this ball. Duke beats his man here in a beautiful out and up, and the Cover 1 safety is late. Just a little more loft here would do him some justice here as this could have been a touchdown.

  • Another beautiful example of pocket awareness and downfield vision. He works past his first read and makes a smart throw to Devalve here. Sometimes these are the throws that win games. Let your receivers make plays in the open field. Kizer will learn this as he goes.

  • Given the breakdown in front of him here, Kizer does well to complete this ball down field. The interior of the line didn’t do Kizer many favors on Sunday. If Kizer wants to be elite here, though, he has to allow his receiver to run with this one. It has big play potential written all over it.

  • This Kasen Williams ball has to be caught, in my opinion. Kizer does excellent work holding the play side safety with a quick pump fake against Pittsburgh’s Cover 4. Sure, he needs to lead Williams to the pylon for a touchdown, but this ball is good enough to be caught.

  • The rest of these aren’t so pretty. Kizer fades here on an out and up route by number two. Pittsburgh is sitting in true Cover 3, so this all has to be inside enough to keep the corner away, and perfectly dropped between the Sam linebacker and Safety. Not an easy throw, and the reward here is probably not worth the risk.

  • This still shot shows Kizer hanging onto the football and taking an eventual sack. He has Matthew Dayes wide open on a Texas route out of the backfield here and simply needs to check down once he processes the coverage doesn’t allow a ball downfield and the Mike backer has turned chasing the seam.

  • This is one that will make Kizer cringe in film review. He has three separate chances to get rid of this ball but still hangs onto it trying to make a play. This is classic rookie quarterback play here. Live and learn.

  • Cant really explain this one. Kizer tries to throw this inside slant route quickly and doesn’t even see the defender jump the route and Duke Johnson looks confused. Seems to me Kizer predetermined this throw based on the alignment of the invert defender. He can’t do this, but the Browns constant inside run fakes make it hard for Kizer to keep his eyes where they always need to be.

  • I lean toward this being a heck of a play by the Rookie TJ Watt. Kizer tries to put this ball, on a comeback into the boundary, right over Watt’s head and on the sideline for his receiver. Obviously, he just needs a little better angles here to drop it over Watt’s head. This throw has a high level of difficulty, but it’s one pro quarterbacks need to be able to make.

There were positives to build upon. There were some glaring mistakes. TJ Watt’s interception was the most crippling. Moral of the story here is that playing quarterback in the NFL is hard, really hard. Some of these throws were off by mere inches and those can flip any given week. I was most worried about Kizer’s processing skills coming into this game, and I left it feeling better about them. Sure, the sacks don’t look good on paper, but Kizer will get a better feel for his internal clock with each passing game in the league- he is just getting that feel for the pace of the game. The Browns can do him some favors here with extra protection (six of seven sacks came with four to five receivers out on routes). Kizer will continue to flourish within this offense if the group around him remains healthy. The running game will be better in the future than it was on Sunday, and that will only help him. Kizer’s rhythm and feel for the offense gives me hope, and it should for you as well.

Overall Grades:

Footwork: B

Pocket Awareness: A-

Decision Making: B-

Accuracy: C-

Touch: D+


  1. The GIFs and analysis therein are presented by some quality follows on twitter if you care about the Browns and quarterback play: Jordan Zirm and Derrik Klassen []