CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – The numbers were unimpressive but DeShone Kizer showed just enough to earn the starting job Sept. 10 against the Steelers during Saturday night’s 13-9 win at Tampa Bay.
Kizer completed just 6 of 18 passes for 93 yards in the first half but he was not sacked and he showed poise and composure by extending plays on several occasions.
“I thought he did some good things,” head coach Hue Jackson told reporters after the game. “I know the numbers were’t what I would like, or he would like. But I thought he moved the team, made some plays. I think our surrounding cast has to continue to help him.”
Jackson declined to name Kizer the official starter for the season but it appears that is going once he reviews the tape and meets with all 4 quarterbacks on the roster.
The Browns’ offense started inside their own 20 4 times in the first half and 4 of Kizer’s completions came on third down. He could’ve had a fifth had Kenny Britt been able to catch the ball up the seam inside the 15.
Britt’s drop ended a would-be touchdown drive and led to Cody Parkey’s 38-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead. Another potential TD drive was thwarted when Duke Johnson fumbled in the red zone. Johnson earlier had ripped off a 37-yard run.
“With our defense playing as well as they have the last three games, it’s our duty as an offense to make sure we turn those short fields and turnovers into points,” Kizer said. “We got down in the red zone twice. A field goal on one and a fumble on the other is unacceptable.”
Kizer wasn’t perfect – as his numbers indicated – and he has a long way to go, but he continues to show glimpses of his potential.
“He did not fall flat on his face,” Jackson said. “He didn’t. As a matter of fact, he did some better things than I thought he would, to be honest with you.”
Kizer did stare down receivers and he got burned on a late throw over the middle that got tipped and then intercepted. But that is a teaching moment for the rookie and just one of many he will have this season. Kizer got away with another questionable throw when Rannell Hall played defensive back and was able to prevent a potential pick-6.
Corey Coleman looked like a No. 1 receiver while the rest of the gang continue to do little to impress. Coleman caught 4 of his 8 targets for 66 yards including a pair of third down conversions in the first half and he had a nice diving 32-yard catch inside the Tampa Bay 30 that helped set up the field goal. Kizer did a nice job evading the rush by moving to his left and instead of running found Coleman.
“You see 6 of whatever the stats were, and you can call it a bad game,” Kizer told reporters after the game. “But if you go out there and watch what we were able to do as far as developing drives, we know that if we build on that by the time week one comes on we’ll have a good offense ready to go out and compete and support the great defense that we have right now.”
Jackson was frustrated at halftime when he spoke with 92.3 The Fan mid-day host and News 5 sports director Andy Baskin. Jackson lamented mental mistakes, penalties, missed opportunities and the inability to finish drives.
The Browns were flagged 8 times for 51 yards in the first half, including Jamie Collins being caught offsides on a field goal attempt that gave the Buccaneers a fresh set of downs and false starts by tight end David Njoku and Joe Thomas.
There was plenty for Gregg Williams to like from his defense in the first half.
A few plays after the Collins penalty, Jabrill Peppers picked Jameis Winston off at the goal line and returned it 23 yards. The interception was set up in part thanks to pressure from Myles Garrett.
After both Browns turnovers they forced a 3-and-out. Tampa Bay didn’t convert a single third down in the first half – 0-7 – which was a major problem for the Browns a year ago.
Defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah had a sack and swatted a pass, linebackers Christian Kirksey had a sack and 6 tackles and Joe Schobert batted down a pass and also had 6 tackles.
The Browns will lean heavily on their defense to help carry the team this season but if the first 3 preseason games are any indication, it appears that side of the ball is up to the task.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)