CLEVELAND — DeShone Kizer let it rip Thursday night.
The rookie quarterback helped the Browns rally past the Saints, 20-14, in their preseason opener and, in the process, gained a new layer of confidence as training camp rolls on.
"I definitely think I made some improvements," Kizer said, referencing the team's Orange & Brown Scrimmage last week. "I can definitely say from the scrimmage to now that I'm still heading in the right direction."
Kizer, the former Notre Dame star whom Cleveland drafted in the second round of the NFL Draft this past spring, passed for 184 yards on 11-of-18 competitions, including a 45-yard go-ahead touchdown pass to Jordan Payton with under two minutes to play.
And though it was an exciting display for all involved, both Kizer and Jackson played down matters as the youngster continues to learn and grow within Cleveland's offense.
"I'm sure he's in the locker room excited, but he'll be the first to tell you, there are so many other things to clean up," Jackson said.
"He probably would tell you it should have been two more long balls for big plays. He has a lot of work to do. He has to keep growing, and he has to keep working, but a night like tonight, for a young player as you mentioned, will give him confidence."
Indeed, Kizer showed poise in the pocket and the arm talent that led some to believe he'd be a top-five pick in the Draft. While Kizer's physical tools have been on display throughout camp, both he and Jackson have stressed the need for consistency and a mastery of the playbook.
"I wanted to see DeShone play. I thought I needed to put him out there in the fire," Jackson said.
"I think it was a great experience for him. There's a lot for him to learn from, but there was a lot of good things that he did, and he stood in there and made some plays with his arm. He will be the first to tell you there are so many things that he has to grow from. Just calling the play right, he will be the first to tell you that so he will grow that way, but there were some positives there, too."
As such, Kizer said he'll dive into the film along with veteran counterparts Brock Osweiler, Cody Kessler and Kevin Hogan to see where he needs to improve.
Jackson, asked Kizer's performance and how it might factor into the Browns' ongoing quarterback competition, said it's "way too early to talk about that."
"Let's see it for what it was. The guy made some plays at the end that gave us a chance to win, but there is still so much growth that needs to happen for this young player," he said. "We all know he is talented, as I said before, but there are still some things he needs to do better."
"This whole process, the goal is to gain confidence in everything that we're doing," Kizer added. "There's a reason that we're still in training camp after preseason game one, it's because I am still in the developmental stage in my career." Thursday night, at the very least, was a good first step.