Hue Jackson made it quite clear Sunday after the latest loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars who will have the Browns’ offensive huddle next week in Cincinnati. And beyond.
It will be DeShone Kizer. Period. Don’t bother asking anymore. Regardless of what happens the rest of this season, barring any unforeseen injury, the rookie from Notre Dame is the man. Get used to it.
“I need to continue to see him,” said Jackson, who sounds like a man very comfortable with his job status despite winning only one game in 26 attempts as the Browns’ head coach. “Let him play . . . this thing out . . . as long as he’s healthy.
“I want to walk away from this season knowing exactly what DeShone Kizer is top to bottom. He deserves that. . . . It’s the consistency he has to keep chasing.”
It’s hard to quarrel with Jackson’s decision at this time regarding the most important player on the side of the football he coordinates. But stop and think. Who else is he going to trot out there?
One look at Jackson’s quarterbacks room and you have your answer. Is he going to bench Kizer for Cody Kessler? Or Kevin Hogan? If the answer is yes, either you haven’t been paying attention or you have a problem.
We’ve seen what Kessler and Hogan can do when given the chance. And it isn’t very pretty. So why not Kizer? There’s no one else. Given the alternative, Jackson really has no choice in the matter. This is what Sashi Brown has given him. He thus has to blow smoke.
Jackson has a tendency to stretch the boundaries of credulity when discussing his quarterback. It’s evidenced by his thinking after Kizer’s rough first quarter against Jacksonville Sunday when he directed a trio of three-and-outs, was picked off once and booked just four total yards,
He rebounded with his only touchdown drive early in the second quarter before slipping back into struggle mode the rest of the way.
“It takes heart to keep coming back in there and throw a huge touchdown to Duke (Johnson Jr.) a drive after that,” the coach said. “That’s what it is. He’ll only get better if he keeps taking that mind-set and playing.”
Really? It takes heart? That’s a bit of a stretch. Check that. It’s massive stretch. Anyone buying this bullroar?
Playing football in the National Football League is what Kizer gets paid to do. It’s his job. And right now, he’s playing at a level higher than either Kessler or Hogan. Relatively speaking, that is.
Jackson speaking out now as Kizer’s advocate removes any doubt whatsoever and in some way sends a message to the rest of the team. He isn’t that naïve where he doesn’t think Kizer’s mates on offense don’t see how destructive he can be at times? Words of encouragement help.
This is what the final six games are going to look like whether you like it or not. Enjoy Kizer’s successes, be exasperated with his failures and hope the successes catch up to the exasperation.
The only way Kizer is going to learn, and the only way Jackson can find out about him, is by playing him the rest of the way. Fans will have to live with the negatives that surely pile up all the way to New Year’s Eve day in Pittsburgh.
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After watching Jacksonville’s offense struggle most of the afternoon against the Cleveland defense, it's hard to believe this is the same team that put up 97 points against the other three members of the AFC North earlier this season. Not only that, the Jaguars limited those teams to just 23 points.
They walloped Baltimore, 44-7, at home; went into Pittsburgh and slapped the Steelers, 30-9; and took care of visiting Cincinnati, 23-7. The Browns gifted the Jaguars their two touchdowns Sunday on a Kizer pick well into Cleveland territory and a strip sack near the Browns’ end zone.
Otherwise, the Cleveland defense played the Jaguars to a virtual standstill. Rookie running back Leonard Fournette’s 111 rushing yards were hard earned in 28 carries. With the exception of one 29-yard run, he was well contained all afternoon.
What made that remarkable was the defense rarely had a chance to rest, especially in the first half when the Browns’ longest possession lasted just five plays. It’s difficult to play defense when you are back on the field before your body has had a chance to recover.
Losing defensive tackle Jamie Meder and defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah didn’t help, forcing backups to play longer and, in some cases, with no rest. The more backups play, the less efficient they are.
Add to that the five Cleveland turnovers, which put the defense on the field for 36 of the 60 minutes and you have a whipped group of football players. And yet, the Jaguars scored only 13 points on offense.
And now that Ogbah is gone for the season with a broken foot, the situation along the defensive line becomes grim. It means Myles Garrett very well could see double and triple teaming from now on and be rendered totally ineffective.
If nothing else, Sunday’s performance by the defense serves as an emotional springboard for next Sunday’s game in Cincinnati. Another game like that against the Bengals, who thrashed the Browns, 31-7, in their first meeting this season the first Sunday in October, and the results this time are different.
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Okay, I give up. What’s wrong with Jabrill Peppers? Is that really Peppers back there playing free safety and fielding punts? And why hasn’t he played on offense? Are you sure that No. 22 is Peppers?
The ex-Michigan safety/linebacker/running back/punt returner has been a disappointment, although you won’t hear any coach admit that. He came advertised as a difference maker, whether it was bringing the lumber with his jarring tackles, making big plays on defense, returning punts for big yardage or running the football.
The second of the Browns’ three first-round selections in the last college football draft has not been the game changer most fans expected. He is still looking for his first interception (the Browns have only six picks in 10 games).
As for punt returns, he has returned 23 for only 129 yards, his longest effort 25 yards. He muffed a pair of punts Sunday against the Jaguars, neither doing appreciable damage.
I could have missed it, but I don’t remember Peppers breaking the huddle with the offense. He has been almost exclusively a deep safety for defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.
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Lost in the postmortem of the Jaguars loss was the Browns doing something they hadn’t done in 55 years. Almost to the day. For the first time since Nov. 18, 1962 against the St.. Louis Cardinals, a Cleveland pro football team played what was essentially a clean game. No penalties. Not even one that was called but declined.
No false starts, no neutral zone infractions, no pass interference calls, no defensive holding, no offensive holding. Not even the dreaded illegal block in the back penalty on punt coverage. The officials’ yellow laundry was used only against the Jaguars,* * *
There are many and varied reasons the Browns are sill searching for their first victory of the season. Here are two that stick out more than the others. They have scored a league-worst 150 points in 10 games and surrendered 259, an NFL-worst point differential of –109.
Now compare that to the Miami Dolphins, who have scored just seven more points than the Browns and allowed only five fewer (157-254), a point differential of –97. So why are the Dolphins 4-6 and the Browns 0-10?
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Finally . . . Jackson welcomed Corey Coleman back from injured reserve by targeting him 11 times against the Jaguars. The second-year wide receiver responded with six receptions for 80 yards. . . . James Burgess Jr., filling in for the injured Jamie Collins at outside linebacker, filled up the stats sheet with 16 tackles, seven solo and three tackles for loss. Fellow outside backer Christian Kirksey checked in with 12 stops, eight solo, while middle backer Joe Schobert had 11 and five. . . . For some reason, Browns cornerbacks played Jacksonville wide receivers soft all afternoon. . . . Isaiah Crowell had his worst running day of the season, gaining only 18 yards in 11 attempts. . . . Duke Johnson Jr. carried the ball only two times. Why, why, why??? In case Jackson hadn’t noticed, he is a running back. So why isn’t he running more? One of these mornings, Jackson is going to wake up and realize Crowell is not his No. 1 back. Incorrectly evaluating and misusing talent has officially reached the coaching staff. . . . Duke touch count: two carries for 10 yards; four pass receptions for 56 yards and the touchdown. Six touches for 66 yards. . . . So why isn't he . . . never mind.