When it is all said and done, DeShone Kizer most likely will be the starting quarterback when the Browns travel to Houston to play the Texans next Sunday.
Never mind that he was clearly the worst quarterback to take a snap against the New York Jets Sunday in the 17-14 home loss. Makes no difference.
“DeShone Kizer today is our starting quarterback, unless I feel different (later),” said coach Hue Jackson, who yanked the rookie at halftime of the Jets game in favor of Kevin Hogan.
It will be interesting to see how Jackson evaluates Kizer’s performance against the Jets. Last week, you’ll recall, he said the kid played “lights out” football in the 31-7 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in game four.
The coach gave himself a little wiggle room, though, preferring to watch game tape and then make a decision. But it’s difficult to believe he will start Hogan against the Texans after solidly backing Kizer despite his erratic performances.
As for how Kizer reacted to the benching, Jackson said, “I think he respects my decision. (He had better.) And we’ll go from there. . . . I was trying to put our team in the best position to win games.”
Well, if that’s the case, then, choosing Hogan to start in Houston should be a no-brainer. When he is in charge of the huddle, the Cleveland offense looks entirely different than when Kizer has the huddle.
All Jackson has to do is look at the statistics. When Kizer is in charge, the Browns have scored 46 points on 48 possessions. But he has produced no points in three of his five starts.
Hogan has piloted just 10 drives in his partial portfolio of parts of three games and been responsible for 31 points. Simple math suggests he should at be given at least more than token consideration.
Kizer is a 50.9% passer with three touchdowns and nine interceptions after 159 passes. Hogan has completed 68.4% of his 38 passes and checks in with three touchdowns and two picks. Again, simple math . . .
Good things happen when Hogan enters the game. For whatever reason, the line seems to block better in both phases. The fact he unloads the ball quickly certainly must sit well with the guys who protect him.
The running plays are crisper. Isaiah Crowell appears to see and hit the hole a lot quicker. In addition, Jackson is not afraid to use Hogan as a running threat, having called two keeper plays for him against the Jets.
If Kizer is a spectator next Sunday, he has no one to blame but himself. Two awful turnovers inside the Jets’ 5-yard line Sunday robbed his team of anywhere from six to 14 points.
And the way the defense shut down the Jets in the first half, scoring was imperative in an effort to finally win the first game of the season. Kizer’s numbers were decent, but the turnovers deep in red zone territory were daggers.
It seems as though Jackson is trying to force-feed Kizer with plays that seem difficult for him to execute. It does not look as though he is changing the scheme any differently for Hogan.
Hogan’s only negative is his throwing arm, which is not nearly as strong as Kizer’s. Jackson loves to stretch the field, but Hogan’s best and most effective throws are in the short to medium range. Long distance is not his forte
The offense also seems go function better from a rhythm and timing standpoint with Hogan in charge as evidenced by Duke Johnson Jr.’s dazzling 41-yard touchdown run with a screen pass in the fourth quarter The timing on the play was exquisite. Kizer cannot yet execute that play with any degree of success.
It will be interesting to see if Jackson is coy with his decision this week – he says he will announce his choice Wednesday – because he probably doesn’t want do give the Texans too much time to prepare for whoever (whomever?) he chooses.
If the coach wants, as he says, to put his team in the best position to win, then Hogan should be the man in charge until he proves he can’t do the job and then he can fall back on Kizer.
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In the National Football League, as been stated here many times, offense is all about rhythm and timing. Kizer put problems with that on display on the second possession of the game against the Jets.
One play prior to the freeze option play that resulted in a fumble that deep-sixed an opportunity to put points on the board, the Browns faced a second-and-goal from the New York 3.
Crowell broke to the right flat at the snap and was open from the time he took his first step. He looked back at Kizer, who for whatever reason held on to the ball. He was open for a few more steps before a Jets defender picked him up.
All Kizer needed to do was flip the ball to the running back immediately and then let him make a play, something he is paid to do. If Kizer delivers the ball quickly, Crowell could have waltzed into the end zone.
Instead, he waited and waited, allowing the Jets defender to catch up to Crowell before unloading it over the running back’s head because he was covered too well by then. It went down as an incomplete pass on the play-by-play sheet only because there is no designation on the sheet for massive brain fart.
Then came that fateful next play and the tone for the frustrating day, as it turned out, was set.
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Rookie defensive end Myles Garrett made his professional debut memorable after sitting out the first four games with a high ankle sprain. He checked in with a two-sack afternoon, two tackles for loss, a pair of hits on Jets quarterback Josh McCown and a bunch of hurries in his 19 snaps.
The 2017’s top pick in the college draft debuted on the third play of the game and immediately thundered quickly between two Jets offensive lineman and buried McCown mere seconds after he set up to pass. He tacked on his second sack in the final stages of the second quarter, this one a four-yard loss.
If Garrett can stay healthy, he gives the Browns the kind of physical force they haven’t had for years that impacts not just the defensive line, but the entire front seven. He’s the kind of player opposing offensive coordinators account for in game planning.
His unusual combination of size, speed and quickness cannot be taught. If his debut is a portent of things to come, the Cleveland defense, which has shown surprising strength in stopping the run thus far, should begin a rapid climb toward elite status in the NFL.
It will be interesting to see how many more snaps Garrett will be given when the Browns visit his home state Sunday to play the Texans. After playing almost 36% of the club’s 53 snaps against the Jets and looking strong, there is every reason to believe that number will grow Sunday.
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McCown spent two very long seasons in Cleveland the last two years. He started seven games in front of the home folks during that time and never walked out a winner. Until Sunday.
“It took me three years and two teams, but dadgummit, I got me a win at FirstEnergy Stadium,” the Texan gushed after the 17-14 victory, his first in eight starts in Cleveland.
His only victory in a Browns uniform (in 11 overall starts) was a 33-30 overtime thriller in Baltimore in 2015 when he threw for a club record 457 yards on a 36-of-51 afternoon with two touchdowns and no picks.
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Tight end David Njoku is having an under-the-radar season thus far, but leads the Browns in touchdown receptions with half of the team’s six through the air, including a pair of spectacular grabs against Pittsburgh and the Jets. Seven of his 12 receptions (for 118 yards) have resulted in first downs.
His ability to make difficult – sometimes seemingly impossible – catches should prompt the offensive coaching staff at some point to consider throwing the football his way more often because there is an excellent chance it will be caught.
Njoku, the last of three first-round selections in the last college draft, has been targeted just 15 times because Jackson, for some reason, prefers Kizer and Hogan to throw the ball to less reliable wide receivers. It’s not that he doesn’t like tight ends. He made Tyler Eifert a star in Cincinnati.
Njoku uses his 6-4, 245-pound frame to great advantage in catching the ball. His biggest negatives? He is not a good blocker and entered pro ball with the reputation of dropping the occasional pass. He has not shown that to be the case so far.
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Finally . . . The Browns’ defense held the Jets to just 37 yards rushing, not counting the three kneel downs McCown took at the end of the game. It didn’t hurt that Bilal Powell left the game in the first quarter with a strained calf and did not return. . . . Didn’t take long for the Browns to break in new wideout Bryce Treggs, who was targeted six times against the Jets and caught two passes for 28 yards. . . . It seems as though Ricardo Louis has become favorite target of Cleveland quarterbacks. He caught five of the eight passes thrown his way for 71 yards. . . . Strong games from defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah and outside linebacker James Burgess Jr., filling in for Jamie Collins. . . . The offensive was so efficient and benevolent against the Jets, Britton Colquitt punted just twice for a 56.5-yard average. . . . Danny Shelton was in on 24 plays and did nothing, The defensive tackle’s name did not appear on the final stats sheet. . . . Duke Johnson Jr. touch watch: Six carries for 20 yards; three receptions for 63 yards (and as touchdown). Nine touches for 83 yards. More than nine yards a touch. Why isn’t he . . . oh never mind.