TAMPA —** In naming DeShone Kizer the Browns' starting quarterback for Saturday's game against the Buccaneers, head coach Hue Jackson expressed confidence the talented rookie would rise to the occasion.
After a 13-9 win, Jackson echoed that sentiment in his postgame news conference, saying the second-round NFL Draft pick and former Notre Dame star exceeded expectations despite a final statline that perhaps didn't reflect as much.
"I thought he did some good things. I know the numbers weren't like I would like or he would like, but I thought he moved the team and made some plays," he said.
"I thought he did some really good things. I'm going to go back and watch the tape, but I feel comfortable with him. I thought he handled things really well. His eyes were good, the conversations we had was what you want with your quarterback."
Kizer, who made his first preseason start and is poised to permanently earn that job, completed 6-of-18 throws for 93 yards and an interception. It was far from a flawless performance as Cleveland's offense struggled to convert promising drives into points in the first half.
"When the defense plays as well as it has been these last three games it's our duty on the offense to make sure that we turn those short fields and quick turnovers into points," Kizer said. "Obviously today we get down into the red zone twice and we don't do so. A field goal in one and a fumble in another is unacceptable. Those need to be touchdowns in order for us to continue the success we have been having."
But Jackson made it clear he liked what he saw from the youngster as the Browns inch closer toward ending a quarterback competition that began in OTAs.
"Matter of fact, he did some things better that I thought he would to be honest with you," Jackson said, adding he won't make any decisions until he addresses a room that includes Kizer, Brock Osweiler, Cody Kessler and Kevin Hogan, who tossed the game-winning touchdown pass.
"I like to talk to all of these guys and kind of let them know where they are. It's just how I've done it up to this point and I don't want to change that. I think it's important that we all have a conversation after I watch the tape and see where we are, then make that decision."
Jackson added he was impressed with Kizer's demeanor this past week, saying nothing about the quarterback's routine changed as he moved up the depth chart.
"That's what I like about him. I think he's doing everything I'm asking him to do. I think he's doing everything I think he needs to do to prepare himself for this opportunity," he said. "Obviously, he did some good things and he made a jump."
In three games, Kizer has completed 25-for-49 attempts for 351 yards and a touchdown, having played the most of any of team's signal callers.
Once believed to be a top-15 prospect in the Draft, the 21-year-old has made strides under the tutelage of Jackson and quarterbacks coach David Lee since coming to Cleveland this spring. Asked to reflect on that Draft day experience, he smiled.
"Everything happens for a reason. It's truly a blessing to in this organization going through the things we're going through," he said.
"That was a moment that was an opportunity to end one phase of my life and start another. Right now, it's about making sure that from that day forward, I do whatever it takes to make sure that I never feel that hurt again ... There's a lot of things that you can go back and pull yourself down from in a four and eight season in my last college career game and then also expecting to be a first-round guy and falling to the second round. But right now it's all about the positives and learning from them and doing whatever I can to, once again, do whatever I can to put this team in position to win games."
That approach has served him well in Cleveland so far.
"It's my job to go perform in whatever situation coach puts me in. Whether it be the starter, second team, third team, whatever it is," Kizer said. "If it's a preseason game or regular season game, I just want to go out and do whatever I can to help this team get into winning position."