Browns coach Hue Jackson says there was a purpose in bringing DeShone Kizer to Cleveland. And since tabbing the rookie quarterback this past spring, Kizer has impressed both on and off the field.
There are obvious things that stand out, such as the rookie quarterback's arm talent, prototypical size (6-foot-4, 230 pounds) and overall athleticism that led some to believe he'd be a top-10 pick in the NFL Draft. Then there are more subtle dynamics, namely Kizer's introspectiveness that intrigued the club during the pre-NFL Draft process.
Jackson cited those qualities Sunday afternoon, naming Kizer the team's 2017 starter at quarterback and perhaps for years to come.
"He's earned the right to play through his preparation. He has established a work ethic that I think has earned the respect of his teammates," Jackson said on a teleconference following a comeback win over the Buccaneers on Saturday night.
"It's been good to watch his development throughout the offseason. Obviously, he's a young quarterback and he still has a lot to learn. He's going to learn a lot and gain a lot of experience and the only way you get that is by playing and we're all excited about that."
Indeed, Kizer has shined throughout the preseason, helping lead the Browns to three victories in as many tries. In the dress rehearsal game against Tampa Bay, Kizer showed more promise despite a final stat line that Jackson said didn’t reflect how the youngster performed in his first NFL start.
Kizer, who has totaled 25-for-49 passes for 351 yards and a touchdown plus eight rushes for 47 yards and another score, made several big plays Saturday despite unfavorable situations on a stormy night in Florida.
"He has the characteristics, as I mentioned earlier, that we covet," Jackson said. "We have to continue to get him to use those at the best of his ability."
Jackson pointed to a third-down conversion in the first quarter in which Kizer sidestepped pressure to deliver a 32-yard strike to Corey Coleman. He called it a "beautiful play" and praised Kizer for his poise in the pocket.
"I thought he put the team in good situations to be successful, but again, as I just said, around him we all have to do our jobs better to better support him," Jackson said, referencing drops, penalties and other offensive miscues.
"When there's a chance to catch the ball we have to catch it and when there is a chance to hold onto it in the scoring zone we have to do that, but I thought he led the team and gave us opportunities to score points, which we didn't finish as a unit."
Jackson acknowledged Kizer, who turned in January, will experience highs and lows as do most rookies. But the Browns will "ride with him through it all and work with him through all of this."
"Those things are going to happen, and I think we get that. He gets that," he said. "We're not going to blink about it. We are just going to correct it and keep moving forward."
Jackson also emphasized Kizer — who's set to be the first rookie quarterback to start a season opener since 2012 — and his new role "isn't just for the moment" as Cleveland hopes to establish a permanent answer at quarterback.
"When we drafted this young man, there was a purpose in drafting him. We thought that he had exactly what we were looking for," Jackson said.
"As we kept diving into this process of spending time with him and making him our draft pick and from the first conversation I had with him up through now, it has been about how we can get him to be the best that he can be.
"I think we all dove into this the right way to go find a guy who hopefully can solve our quarterback issue," he continued. "Again, it's not over with yet. This guy has been named the starter, but he still has to earn the right to be the starting quarterback for this team week in and week out and I think he gets that, but he has the talent, he has the makeup and he has the things we are looking for. Now, we just have to go get him and push him onto that next level."