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Victor Oladipo, Pacers

Why Browns fans shouldn’t be freaking out about DeShone Kizer

After an impressive debut against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Cleveland Browns quarterback DeShone Kizer had a very rough outing on Sunday, as his team fell 24-10 to the Baltimore Ravens. Although he looked bad, it’s extremely premature to clamor for another QB to be drafted high, as some fans and media pundits already are.

Here are Kizer’s totals from his first two games in the NFL:

Week 1 vs. Pittsburgh: 20/30, 222 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT, 85.7 RAT, L 18-21

Week 2 vs. Baltimore: 15/31, 182 yds, 0 TD, 3 INT, 27.3 RAT, L 10-24

His stats look very bad, and the advanced stats aren’t any better. But, Kizer was going to have some of these games, especially when going up against an elite defense such as Baltimore’s; through two games, they have allowed the third-fewest points in the NFL (this ranking comes with a caveat; Tampa Bay, who ranks second, has only played one game). They also have forced the most turnovers, with 10. Pittsburgh’s defense is a top-tier unit as well, allowing the third-fewest yards per game.

Kizer’s performance was unacceptable, but there were contributing factors. Isaiah Crowell was very ineffective in the running game. Duke Johnson was better, but Crowell kept getting the carries until Hue Jackson completely abandoned that facet in the second half. The Browns need to be able to consistently get rushing yards in order to take the pressure off of Kizer. Matt Dayes got 0 touches after impressing for the past 5 games, including preseason. Versatile fullback Danny Vitale was also on the field for far too little.

Kizer’s migraine (and the subsequent medication) seemed to clearly affect him. He certainly wasn’t 100%, or even close. In reality, sitting him for the remainder of the game wouldn’t have been a bad idea at all.

The lack of effort from the wide receivers should be very frustrating for the coaching staff. Kenny Britt has done nothing to warrant his contract, or even a spot on the roster. He was penalized for blatant offensive pass interference early in the game and then started pouting and not trying for the rest of it. Sammie Coates did the same thing; he ran a fade route that Kizer placed very well, but Coates slowed down toward the end and eventually just stopped running. And, on the final offensive play, both Coates and Britt jogged through their routes, doing nothing to create even a little bit of separation. Kizer called Coates out on a separate play for not trying to come back to the ball, which was nice to see.

Rashard Higgins and Seth DeValve were the most dependable targets. David Njoku played well apart from a concentration drop late in the game. Louis had a nice catch in the seam, but later dropped an easy out pattern, although he was bailed out by a penalty.

Since Kizer took seven sacks last week, everyone wants to see him improve in that aspect. Despite only taking three, his time-to-throw actually increased. At first I attributed this to Kizer’s wanting to make a play, but now it’s clear it’s due to both that and the passing gameplan. Obviously, deep routes are needed to stretch the defense ( that’s Kizer’s strength, too), but when the receivers aren’t getting open (and many aren’t even trying), you can’t keep doing that over and over and over again.

That’s what Hue Jackson kept calling, though. Kizer is most effective when he is able to run plays quickly, look over the defense as he gets up to the line, and then go right to the next play. The way to do that is with short, quick, timing passes. Slants, outs, etc. They only started doing that on the final drive.

Against Pittsburgh, Kizer’s quarterback rating was virtually identical under pressure compared to when he worked with a clean pocket, meaning pressure didn’t negatively affect him much. Against Baltimore, under pressure, his rating was 30.7. His overall rating was 27.3, meaning his clean pocket rating was actually lower. While the game was disastrous, this is an encouraging trend, providing more evidence that this was just a bad game and not indicative of him being a bust.

Let’s take a look at Derek Carr’s first two games:

27/42, 263 yds, 1 TD, 2 INTs, 63.7 QBR, 69.8 RAT, L 14-30 vs. Houston Texans

20/32, 151 yds, 2 TD, 0 INT, 29.4 QBR, 94.7 RAT, L 14-19 vs. New York Jets

Houston’s defense wasn’t then what it is now. NYJ’s was solid, but nothing like Baltimore’s.

Jameis Winston:

16/33, 210 yds, 2 TDs, 2 INTs, 64 RAT, L 14-42 vs. Tennessee Titans

14/21, 207 yds, 1 TD, 0 INTs, 114.6 RAT, W 26-19 vs. New Orleans Saints

Tennessee’s defense was nothing special, but NO’s was awful. Indy’s D is very bad, so next week Kizer needs to have a good game.

Joe Flacco:

15/29, 129 yds, 0 TDs, 0 INTs, 63.7 RAT, W 17-10 vs. Cincinnati Bengals

13/19, 129 yds, 0 TDs, 2 INTs, 47.8 RAT, W 28-10 vs. Cleveland Browns

Cam Newton:

24/37, 422 yds, 2 TDs, 1 INT, 110.4 RAT, L 21-28 vs. Arizona Cardinals

28/46, 432 yds, 1 TD, 3 INT, 72 RAT, L 23-30 vs. Green Bay Packers

Russell Wilson:

18/34, 153 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT, 62.5 RAT, L 16-20 vs. Arizona Cardinals

15/20, 151 yds, 1 TD, 0 INT, 112.7 RAT, W 27-7 vs. Dallas Cowboys

See what happens when young QBs have weapons and play bad teams? Pittsburgh is probably just as good, or better, than any of these defenses, and Baltimore surely is.

Aside from Wilson and Carr, all of these guys were high, first-round draft picks expected to start immediately. Kizer only had one and a half seasons at Notre Dame and probably needed another year. He’s 21, making him the 2nd youngest QB ever to start in the NFL. Kizer slipped to the 55th pick because he needed time to develop.

Before Browns fans sound the alarms about him being awful and needing to move on, they should give him that time.