Via Cleveland.com – DeShone Kizer clinched the Browns starting quarterback job Saturday night by passing his last big test in the dress rehearsal game here against the Bucs, sources told cleveland.com.
Kizer’s number weren’t great in the 13-9 victory, including a 28.2 rating, but he showed Jackson enough to beat out Brock Osweiler and Cody Kessler for the job and earn the opening day start against Pittsburgh Sept. 10 at FirstEnergy Stadium.
“I feel comfortable with him,” Jackson said after the third preseason game here. “He has the right feel for me and for what I’m looking for.”
Jackson will make the announcement today, after he sits down with the quarterbacks and explains his decision. He might even shake up the room a bit and promote Kevin Hogan ahead of Kessler after Hogan, who earned a 98.9 rating, engineered the fourth-quarter comeback in the pouring rain.
“I need to talk to all of our guys and be very forthcoming and upfront with the guys about where we are,” he said.
But the starting quarterback is not in question. That’s a done deal based on everything Jackson has seen in his rookie this preseason.
“He handled things really well,” Jackson said. “His eyes were good, the conversations we had was what you want with your quarterback. he managed the team well. He did some really good things and we’ll keep coaching him up.”
Kizer will become the 27th quarterback to start for the Browns since 1999 and the second rookie quarterback to start the opener behind Brandon Weeden, who lost 17-16 to the Eagles in 2012.
Kizer completed only 6-of-18 attempts for 93 yards, with no TDs and one interception on a deflected pass over the middle, but he didn’t get much help from his supporting cast. Kenny Britt dropped a pass at the Bucs’ 5 and Duke Johnson fumbled the ball away at the Bucs’ 10.
“No doubt. It would be a whole different game for him,” said Jackson. “That’s why I feel good about the things that he accomplished tonight. I thought he came well prepared to play. Again, that was his first opportunity out there with those guys truly from start until we said, ‘ok enough with the ones and I thought he showed well.’ I thought he did some good things and we can build on some things as we move forward.”
Kizer also had to handle the adversity of being pinned inside his 10 on three of his five first-half drives. The first two ended in turnovers, including Kizer’s late throw over the middle that was picked off, and third was a three-and-out. But the No. 52 overall pick out of Notre Dame impressed Jackson with his poise and decision-making on some of those challenging drives.
“It’s great,” said Jackson. “I like to see him when he’s in those tough situations. He did something that I was very proud of. He’s backed up back there and I call a pass play because I need to know if he’ll be very team-protecting and he did; he rolled and threw the ball out of bounds. Awesome. Those are the things that I have to find out about him. If a guy will do that and protect our team, we’ll have a chance to win games with him.”
Jackson said heading into the game that Kizer would be named the starter as long as he didn’t tank against the Bucs in the third preseason game.
“He did not fall flat on his face,” said Jackson. “He didn’t. Matter of fact, he did some things better than I thought he would, to be honest with you.”
Kizer connected three times with Corey Coleman, including once for a 32-yard sideline route on which he rolled to his left and put it where only the single-covered Coleman could get it. The receiver, who finished with four catches on the night for 66 yards, laid out for the ball and made a great catch — the kind the Browns are going to need to see more of if Kizer is to be successful.
Coleman made two more acrobatic third-down receptions from Kizer, who went 5-of-9 for 56% on the money down in his one half of work.
“He’s doing everything I’m asking him to do,” said Jackson. “He’s doing everything he needs to do to prepare himself for this opportunity. He made a jump.”
Jackson must still decide if Kizer will play in the preseason finale Thursday night in Chicago, or preserve his body for the big day against Pittsburgh.
“There’s some other things we need to do and see,” said Jackson. “We’ll cross that bridge as we go.”
For his part, Kizer would love to play in Chicago, where he’d be on the same field as Trubisky, whom the Browns passed on at No. 1 overall.
“Every rep is valuable at this point,” said Kizer. “Coach Jackson will obviously make the call on that, but it’s an opportunity for me to learn and get better.”
Kizer even embraced the chance to be backed up to his own end zone on three of his five drives, at the 1, 3 and 9.
“All these games, you’re just looking for different experiences, especially as a rookie out there in my first start, I want to feel everything,” he said. “To be backed up and have some fans yelling behind you and have to adjust your cadence — to have some situations in which we go out there and we don’t have the success that we want. …all these different situations are going to be for me to pull from throughout this year and hopefully have some success and learn from.”
Kizer, who faced a Bucs team that rested five defensive starters, lamented the fact that he went 0-for-2 in red zone TDs.
“A field goal in one and a fumble in another is unacceptable,” he said. “Those need to be touchdowns in order for us to continue the success we have been having. But overall, it was an awesome opportunity to go out and compete against some ones with the ones and take the things that we have been doing in practice and apply them to a game situation.”
But he’s shown Jackson the qualities and dynamic skillset he wants to see in his starting QB: the big arm, the mobility, the processing speed and the leadership ability.
“I was able to go out there and feel comfortable right away,” said Kizer. “Obviously a big third-down conversion in that first drive, I was able to get some of those early game jitters out of the way and Corey [Coleman] made some big plays and we started building off of each other and creating some momentum.”
The Browns will have their inevitable growing pains with Kizer, but Jackson is will to live with them for the big-play ability he brings.