After taking over halfway through last Sunday’s game against the New York Jets, Kevin Hogan was officially named the Browns’ starting quarterback Wednesday morning. Less than six weeks after saying that Kizer would start for the entire season and the team would allow him to develop and experience growing pains, it appears head coach Hue Jackson has suddenly changed his mind.
Rather than allow Kizer to develop, which is hugely necessary if he has any hope of becoming a franchise quarterback, it appears Jackson would rather have him ride the bench just to chase a couple of wins in a meaningless season for the franchise. Jackson should give his prized second round pick some time, rather than add more names to that infamous jersey of Browns quarterbacks. This is why Jackson is making the wrong move:
Young, raw, and inexperienced, but full of potential
It was a well-known fact that DeShone Kizer would need time to develop coming out of college. He was a starter at Notre Dame for less than two years, and is just 21 years of age in his rookie season with the Browns. When Kizer declared for the NFL Draft, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said that Kizer was still raw and inexperienced, and that he should have stayed in school for an extra season.
However, Kizer was also labeled by many NFL analysts as the quarterback in the 2017 draft with the highest upside and potential, and it’s clear to see why:
While Kizer is not known for his accuracy, he has both a strong arm and quick feet. He is an excellent dual-threat quarterback, and big plays are his area of expertise. He can make deep passes and make multiple defenders miss. At 6’4” and 233 pounds, Kizer is the type of quarterback scouts, coaches, and general managers spend their careers fantasizing about.
The Cleveland Browns certainly knew Kizer would be a project when they selected him with the 52nd overall pick in this year’s draft. It is essential for Hue Jackson to keep this in mind when Kizer is on the field. At 21 years of age, he is far from a finished product, but there is too much talent and upside there to just stash him on the bench and forget about him. Kizer needs to be on the field. He needs to make mistakes and learn from them. Yes, Kizer is indecisive and holds onto the ball for too long, but there is no way he can fix this if he is watching from the sidelines. The solution to the Browns’ quarterback woes may already be in Cleveland, but he needs to be given a fair shot in order to take the Browns to the next level.
Lack of weapons on offense
While Kizer has had problems with accuracy, decision-making, turnovers, and holding onto the ball for too long, the main cause for his troubles has been the lack of surrounding talent in the Browns’ offense.
Running back Isaiah Crowell has majorly regressed this season. So far, Crowell has run for just 194 yards and zero touchdowns on 64 carries, good for a very disappointing 3.1 yards per carry. These numbers are a far cry from last season’s numbers, where Crowell compiled 952 yards and seven touchdowns on 198 carries, averaging 4.8 yards per carry. Look at Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz for example. In Wentz’s rookie season, the Eagles had no running game, thus causing Wentz to throw 607 passes that season. As a result, Wentz was bound to make mistakes, as he threw 14 interceptions due to having to take the brunt of the workload. Similarly, Kizer has thrown a whopping 159 passes and nine interceptions through roughly four and a half games.
Furthermore, the Browns’ wide receivers have been downright putrid this season. Cleveland’s wideouts have struggled immensely in terms of staying healthy and catching passes. Kizer had good chemistry with Corey Coleman before he suffered a season-ending injury. Kizer’s best game was the Browns’ season opener against the Steelers, in which Coleman played the entire game. Kizer finished that matchup completing 20 of his 30 passes for 222 yards, a touchdown, an interception, and a rushing touchdown, and the Browns almost won that contest, narrowly losing 21-18. Veteran Kenny Britt, who was brought in to replace Terrelle Pryor, has had a case of the butterfingers when on the field and has struggled to stay healthy as well, sitting out last week’s contest against the Jets.
The Browns’ best and most experienced receiver last Saturday was second year man Ricardo Louis. When your number one receiver is Ricardo Louis, that is nothing short of a recipe for disaster. Cleveland’s number two receiver last week was Bryce Treggs, who was signed off the Eagles’ practice squad just a couple days before last Sunday’s game. The lone bright spots this season have been Duke Johnson and rookie tight end David Njoku, who have made a number of fabulous catches.
Similarly to Kizer, Carson Wentz also did not have many offensive weapons to throw the ball to in his rookie season. He had a solid slot receiver in Jordan Matthews and a talented tight end in Zach Ertz, but outside receivers Nelson Agholor and Dorial Green-Beckham constantly struggled with drops throughout the entire season. In the offseason, the Eagles got Wentz some offensive help, signing wideouts Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith, and running back LeGarrette Blount. These moves have paid dividends for the Eagles. Jeffery and Smith have provided Wentz with reliable players to throw to, and pushed Nelson Agholor to the slot, where he has thrived, while Blount has successfully moved the ball down the field and taken some pressure off of Wentz. In his rookie season, Wentz threw for 16 touchdowns and 14 interceptions, while this season he has thrown for ten touchdowns and just three interceptions through five games.
What the Browns need to do
The Browns need to take a page out of the Eagles’ book. Rather than moving on to yet another signal caller, the Browns need to be patient and give Kizer some time to develop. The Browns will have two first round picks in next year’s draft, including one likely in the top five. Rather than take another quarterback, the Browns need to draft offensive playmakers to complement Kizer.
With their top pick, the Browns should take a top-tier running back such as Penn State’s Saquon Barkley. Barkley is the workhorse back the Browns need. He can move the ball down the field and make Kizer’s life much easier. With their other first round pick, the Browns should take a bona fide number one receiver. Alabama’s Calvin Ridley, Texas A&M’s Christian Kirk, Oklahoma State’s James Washington, and SMU’s Courtland Sutton are some of the top wideouts in next year’s draft and could immensely help the Browns.
It is impossible for a rookie quarterback to be ready to play right away, especially one as young and raw as DeShone Kizer. Five games is nowhere near enough time to determine whether a rookie quarterback has what it takes. The Browns need to trust the process and give Kizer a real shot to prove himself. They need to give him at least a couple seasons to learn, grow, and develop, and they must surround him with more talent on offense in order to give him a true shot at success. The Cleveland Browns’ franchise quarterback may already be in Cleveland, and it is absolutely essential for the Browns to be patient and sit through his growing pains, rather than continue adding new names to the infamous jersey and allowing the revolving door of Cleveland Browns quarterbacks to continue to revolve.
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