“Things in life are never quite as good as they seem, or quite as bad as they seem.” The reality lies somewhere in the middle. Yet the pleasure in life never seems to last quite as long, or be quite as memorable, as the pain. The optimistic feelings after a close Week 1 loss to rival Pittsburgh are now a distant memory. Browns fans were reveling in the silver linings of a narrow loss against a Super Bowl contender, and I was one of them.
Now we find ourselves toiling in pessimism after a tough road loss, this time at the hands of division rival Baltimore. The good news is I’m here to tell you that even though this seems like a hopeless loss, there were plenty of things to feel optimistic about- even regarding quarterback play. As far-fetched as it may seem to fathom any positives coming from a unit that turned the ball over five times, there are some that can be carried forward to Week 3.
Although I would love to only break down the film from one quarterback, DeShone Kizer’s apparent yearly migraine reared itself in the second quarter and forced us into seeing some action from backup Kevin Hogan. Kizer went 15-31 with 182 yards and four turnovers (three interceptions), while Kevin Hogan went 5-11 for 118 yards with a touchdown and an interception. All in all the line came out to 20-42 for 300 yards (not terrible), but five total turnovers (really terrible). Let’s take a look at how both quarterbacks fared in their respective categories.
DeShone Kizer: D-
- We will start with the good. Kizer did a nice job driving the ball down field to his right pretty much all day. He hits Randall Telfer on an early corner route to his right, and Higgins on a quick slant to his right side again. Kizer had no issue throwing to his right side all game as he does a great job with his weight transfer, and has a comfortable front foot guiding the hips.
- Now to the bad. Anything working to Kizer’s left, his guide foot led his base to open the hips entirely too wide, and most balls were thrown inaccurately. The first clip here is the early interception on what should have been an easy throw to Duke Johnson. A completion at the minimum has to happen, if Eric Weddle stops him, fine, but you can’t be lazy here and throw your entire front side open and miss the throw. Pay attention to Kizer’s lead foot and shoulder as they are wide open here.
- Another example of Kizer’s front side hanging wide open, led by his front foot. Kizer has to keep his front hip/shoulder coiled and drive off a better positioned guide foot to throw to his left with more accuracy. Here he misses Britt on a slant. There’s plenty of turf in front of Britt, so if he gives him a shot here, Britt could’ve made something out of this.
- This one is tough. Kizer has Higgins open in the end zone here off a beautiful square-in that beats his coverage. Again, Kizer’s front side is wide open, and he throws the ball to his left poorly – a clear pattern on this day. If he is even moderately accurate here, Higgins has a chance. This is one of his worst throws on the day.
Kizer knows that mechanically, he didn’t play well. He noted to the press on Monday, “Throwing the ball across your body, putting the ball a little hard on a running back coming out of the backfield, which ends up in a tipped ball. Those plays happen in the NFL if the ball is not exactly where it needs to be. It is my job to do whatever I can this week to try to limit those uncompromising positions for my receivers.” Hopefully Kizer’s Monday film study shows him that his issues were when throwing to his left more than anything else. If he can clean those up, he will get back on track this week.
Kevin Hogan: C+
- A deficiency that Kevin Hogan has to work to fight is the dip in his back leg right before he launches the ball. He has to work on staying more upright in his delivery to fight the ball from sailing upward on him. Here Hogan shows the habit many young quarterbacks display, dipping right as he reaches the apex of his 3-step drop, but here he gets more vertical in his hips before delivering this ball to DeValve for a big gain. Nicely done.
- Here is an example of the problem. Hogan dips to drive the back leg into the throw and it forces his body to compensate by pushing the ball upward as it comes forward toward release. He misses DeValve high and right on a key third down.
DeShone Kizer: B
Kizer showed some solid pocket awareness on Sunday. He wasn’t flashy, and not many things truly stood out, but his internal clock improved immensely in my opinion. From the beginning I thought we may be in for a long day after the early strip sack from Terrell Suggs, and his grade in this department takes a serious hit for that play alone and doesn’t necessarily reflect his improvement. The Browns can’t afford turnovers deep in their territory, and they can’t come from poor pocket awareness. Every single possession for the Browns has to end in a kick of some kind. After that early mistake, Kizer settled in and maneuvered well within the pocket, and even took of running when he saw fit.
- Here we see Kizer feel the pressure on his right, and slide away from it while keeping his eyes down field to drop the ball off to Duke Johnson for a solid first down gain.
- Kizer does a great job here of sliding away from pressure to his left after Suggs beat Njoku inside. He works his hips to keep his shoulders in the throwing position, but he thinks better of it and uses his plus mobility to pick up a first down. Well done, Browns offense needs to some more of this.
- Here we see Kizer do a great job of feeling the high edge pressure and stepping up comfotably to drop this ball to DeValve for a nice pickup. He didn’t panic and attempt to run, he settled in and got his footwork right when he knew pressure could be on the horizon.
- This is the one most fans remember. I wouldn’t say he held onto it too long, more so that once he decided to leave the pocket, his ball security was sloppy. Can’t do this against the plethora of All-Pro’s the AFC North has up front.
Kizer’s noted in the Monday presser about the speed in which the ball is getting out: “I think that kind of goes hand-in-hand with making sure that I’m protecting the football. Whether it be a sack, a fumble or anything that is going to set us back as an offense, I am going to make the proper adjustments to. Last week, it was about getting the ball out. This week, it is going to be about making sure I have two hands on the ball in the pocket and once again and keeping the ball out of harm’s way.” Kizer will continue to learn and grow. These mistakes will happen all year, it’s about learning from each one to limit the occurrences.
Kevin Hogan: B
In a limited number of snap Hogan had some nice plays against pocket pressure, and then he had some that left something to desire. Hogan seems to handle pressure well, naturally sliding from pressure often while keeping his shoulders square to his target.
- Here Hogan steps up nicely to avoid pressure from Suggs on his right, and resets his base to deliver the touchdown to Njoku. Excellent play on both ends from Hogan and Njoku.
- Here is where I get nervous with Hogan. Sure, this works out to Duke here – thanks to Duke’s #1 rated catch – but this ball seems dicey to me. Hogan doesn’t slide to avoid pressure, and when he feels that pressure he makes a questionable throw.
- In this last clip we see Hogan step up nicely, but again makes a questionable throw decision that easily could have ended in an interception. When he avoids pressure within the pocket, a quality decision is still needed, and I’m not sure Hogan can or will consistently do that.
Overall, Hogan made some nice plays within the pocket and for unexpected spot duty he filled in well, looking quite comfortable most drops. As a backup, this is fine enough, but if Hogan aspires to start for the Browns he will have to make smart choices after using his plus pocket presence.
DeShone Kizer: D+/C-
Kizer did some good things with ball placement, and then he did plenty poorly. Much of this grade is tied into some of the accuracy issues noted above, as most often mechanics issues lead to inaccuracy. It is worth noting that Kizer did have a couple of really great throws against the constant man coverage.
- This is Kizer’s “dime of the day” as he dropped this ball perfectly to Higgins through a small window on 3rd & 18. This is a grown man throw.
- One of the few balls Kizer threw accurately to his left all day. A nice layers concept from Hue here that confuses the Ravens. Higgins is left open on the corner route and Kizer throws a good ball to allow Higgins to catch and run.
- Here we see Kizer make another nice throw on a punch step drop to a Ricardo Louis slant. No coincidence that this ball is thrown to his right. Kizer has to make these quick throws accurately within this offense.
- Kizer struggled again with accuracy on the lone deep ball he threw. He missed Coleman on a back shoulder ball early, but that throw is very minimal in its completion window. Kizer took a shot deep down the right sideline here but he leads Sammie Coates out of bounds. He has to keep these deep balls a couple yards off the sideline.
Kevin Hogan: B+
Hogan made two spectacularly accurate throws, and a few that were dropped. Given his situation unexpected role here, he did well.
- Hogan makes an excellent throw for his first career touchdown to Njoku. The behind view shows just how precise this ball had to be to fit the window between two defenders. Just an excellent throw.
- Another dime here by Hogan to Coleman on an inside release bender route. Hogan has another tiny window here and drops it in perfectly. Although Coleman doesn’t come down with this ball, it’s the reason some have hope Hogan can be a starter in this league.
This section is broken down to two clips. Both crippling mistakes by each quarterback. They avoid an all-out F grade here, because most of their decisions were sound in nature throughout the game. Still, these two mistakes were just brutal to watch, and eerily similar in the nature of the mistake.
DeShone Kizer: D
- Kizer’s mistake here is obvious: he is throwing on the run back against his body. Kizer would be the first to tell you this was foolish. It really put the game out of reach in its timing as the Browns were marching the ball and down only two scores with time left in the fourth quarter. He just can’t make these sorts of poor decisions.
Kevin Hogan: D+
- Hogan’s throw here with around a minute left before half is one of the most confusing throws I have ever seen in watching football. It flat out makes no sense, and ruined what could have been a really good day for the young quarterback. He is rolling to his right and forces a throw to a receiver who was covered throughout and ended with three defenders in place to make the interception. I just hope Hogan learns from this mistake. It really hurt the Browns Sunday.
DeShone Kizer: D+
There have been rookies struggle before Kizer, and there will be rookies who struggle after Kizer. Here’s a list of names who had a multi-interception game in their first four career starts: Aikman, Young, Montana, Manning, Marino, Elway. The big name left off this list is Tom Brady, and even Tom had a four interception game in his fifth career start in 2001. The learning curve is really difficult, and the path to NFL quarterback success is abundantly circuitous. Kizer was bound to land on his face at some point. The hope here is that he learns from his mistakes and grows to avoid these same issues later in his rookie season. It isn’t time to give up all hope Browns fans, stick with the kid.
Kevin Hogan: C
Kevin Hogan gave plenty to be optimistic about. So much so that his backup duty over Cody Kessler is now fully understood. Hogan makes NFL caliber throws, that much is evident. He has to improve his crisis time decision making, but once the game slows down for him, he really has a chance in this league.
Look for a big bounce back week from the quarterback unit in week three against the Colts.