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Film Room: Browns’ offense under Kizer vs. Titans, Part 1

It was a good start to the game for DeShone Kizer, playing to his strengths as a rookie QB.

Tennessee Titans v Cleveland Browns Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

The Cleveland Browns will start QB DeShone Kizer in London, which motivated me to continue on with a film review session on him this week as opposed to skipping it. We will break down ten plays over two posts, focusing on the Browns’ offense against the Tennessee Titans while Kizer was in at quarterback.

Play 1 - Crowell gets stuffed on 3rd-and-1

After giving up a field goal to the Titans on their opening possession, the Browns came out on their first series and ran the ball three consecutive times. This is the third of those three runs, coming on a 3rd-and-1.

The Titans’ defensive end take an inside rush at the snap on LT Joe Thomas, so Thomas drives him to the middle. That leaves the tight end blocking one-on-one on the left edge, and with none of the Browns’ linemen getting to the second level, they have two free defenders crashing inside.

This happens so quickly, so I don’t want to be too critical of RB Isaiah Crowell, but I see FB Danny Vitale swing to the outside to block the defensive back out there. There is nobody else to the outside. If Crowell would have put his foot in the ground and bounced to the outside, he could’ve had a huge gain here. In fairness, though, it’s 3rd-and-short, and maybe Crowell thought he could simply power his way through for a sure first down. He didn’t, and Cleveland went three-and-out on their opening drive for the seventh time this year.

Play 2 - Getting the Ball Out Quick to Duke Johnson

On the Browns’ second drive, the gameplan quickly became clear for Hue Jackson: find a way to get the ball out of DeShone Kizer’s hands quickly, with an emphasis on the running backs and tight ends. It’s the gameplan many of us, including myself, have been calling for since before the preseason began.

The Browns spread the field with four receivers and RB Duke Johnson in the backfield on 3rd-and-2. The Titans’ secondary sits back about 5-10 yards on the receivers, and right as they are making their move, Kizer turns and fires the ball to Johnson. There is no wasted motion, and unlike Kevin Hogan’s overthrows last week, this pass is right on the money and allows Johnson to get four yards for the first down.

Play 3 - Danny Vitale Rumbles Forward

On the very next play, the Browns faked a run to the left side by having everyone pull that direction. The fullback, Danny Vitale, also takes one step that direction before going the other way.

Both of the Titans’ middle linebackers sell out for the run, leaving Vitale uncovered in the flat. As soon as Kizer turns, he delivers an on-target pass. Vitale shows impressive power by rumbling forward for 11 yards and a first down (side note: the Titans kind of got screwed here; this should’ve only been a 9 yard gain).

Play 4 - Good Ball Placement to DeValve

A few plays later, the Browns faced a 3rd-and-7, and they had TE Seth DeValve run a simple stick route at the first down marker for a gain of ten yards. As DeValve is turning around, QB DeShone Kizer is already winding up to throw.

This is a perfect pass between the three defenders, taking advantage of Kizer’s arm strength while putting it low and away from the most threatening defender (the inside one). If Kizer had taken any longer to make this decision, though, this is an interception going the other way.

Play 5

Unfortunately, the Browns’ lengthy drive stumbled on a play in which Hue Jackson wanted to get creative. This was a 2nd-and-8 situation, but it’s a play that I liked and was cool to see live at the stadium.

RB Duke Johnson lines up in Shotgun by himself, with QB DeShone Kizer lined up wide left. (Not seen) One receiver streaks up the right sideline, while another crosses from left to right. When Johnson flips the ball to Kizer, he looks to the right, drawing the safeties that direction. Meanwhile, the hope is that everyone forgets about Johnson as a receiver on the left. One Titans defender remembers to guard him, but Johnson puts an OMG move on them, then breaks about three more tackles to get close to the first down marker.

The problem? If you look at the player I circled in cyan, that is TE Seth DeValve. In trying to contain OLB Derrick Morgan on the edge, he ends up hooking him and the obvious hold, making it 2nd-and-18. If that didn’t kill the drive, then RB Isaiah Crowell’s illegal use of the hands on the next play (in which Kizer scrambled for 13 yards) really killed it, making it 3rd-and-28.

So far, so good from QB DeShone Kizer. In Part 2, we’ll start to see where things went wrong, and it was primarily on his final two throws of the afternoon (both of which were interceptions).