Hue Jackson says rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer must continue to earn the respect of the Browns’ veterans, both on the field and inside the locker room.
Jackson emphasized Kizer — who's set to make his first preseason start Saturday against the Buccaneers and positioned to permanently earn that role — needs to "prove every day that he belongs."
"That's his job as a quarterback," Jackson said Wednesday. "He has to earn the right from those guys."
So far, Kizer has impressed at least one veteran with his arm talent, work ethic and a big-picture understanding of what it takes to play quarterback in the NFL.
"I've seen nothing but positives from DeShone. It's exciting to play with somebody that has that much passion for the game, but also this team," veteran left tackle Joe Thomas said. "He's an Ohio kid and I think he understands what's happened here and he understands where he wants to take this team."
Thomas added Kizer, who would be the team's first rookie to start a season opener since 2012, is in good hands under the tutelage of Jackson, citing the coach's previous work with Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton and Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco.
"Well, starting as a rookie in the NFL at any position is very challenging. The difference in speed and quickness and scheme from college is vast, but when you talk about a quarterback, that's even more difficult because of the complexity of the position," Thomas said.
"It's definitely the most difficult position to start as a quarterback when you're a rookie, but with that being said we have the right man for the job. You look at what Hue Jackson has done with young and rookie quarterbacks in his career – he's just the man to do it. I mean, what he did with Flacco in his rookie year and I think Dalton his second year is really impressive. If ever there was a great team of rookie quarterback and coach, it would be DeShone and Hue.
"I think DeShone really embodies what a professional is. Even as a rookie he understands how to work, how to study the game," Thomas continued. "He understands the commitment it takes to be a starting quarterback, so if ever there was a great combination for a rookie quarterback and coach, it would be Hue and DeShone."
Jackson outlined those responsibilities, saying Kizer — the former Notre Dame star and second-round NFL Draft pick — has impressed with his "talent, ability and football IQ" and unusual degree of introspection.
"We've seen him grow through this process with him. He's done a good job that way. He works at it. It's important to him. We're teaching him how we want our quarterback to perform, prepare and all of those different things," Jackson said. "That's a challenge for anybody because we do. We ask a lot. I'm sure other teams do too across the National Football League. As a quarterback, you kind of live along a lonely road a little bit. You come here early. You stay late. You get rid of distractions and turn the phones off. You have to kind of shut everybody out because you have to find your process that works for you.
"We're in the process of finding what's best for him. How's he going to get all of this information, get it in and then give it back to his teammates? He's going through it, but he has done a great job," he continued. "He doesn't run from it. He runs to it. He understands, he knows what that's going to take if he really wants this job. This is not for everybody. I think we all know that, and there a lot of people who can't do it at a high level consistently, but if you are, there's a lot that goes into it. I think he's finding that out, and I think he's up to the challenge of doing it."
In two preseason games, Kizer has completed 19-of-31 passes for 258 yards and a touchdown. Citing the 21-year-old's growth since OTAs, Jackson said Kizer "keeps passing every test" since training camp opened a month ago. "And there's still another one to pass," he added, in Tampa Bay this weekend.
Thomas believes the rookie will handle it well.
"You see the physical skills obviously and it's fun watching him improve and the way he grows from practice to practice," he said. "I can only imagine what it's going to be like once he's out there with the (first team) getting those game reps and the improvement he'll make … I think you're gonna see DeShone's growth exponentially increase."