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Grading DeShone Kizer’s first NFL start

It wasn’t a perfect performance, but DeShone Kizer showed he’s the best option the Cleveland Browns currently have at their quarterback position.

Cleveland Browns v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images

Rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer generally played well and was poised in his first NFL start, a Week 3 preseason matchup in soggy Tampa Bay, Florida.

If you see his numbers — six completions on 18 attempts for 93 yards and one interception — you probably won’t jump for joy as the Cleveland Browns appear to be on the verge of starting their 10th different opening day starting quarterback in the last 11 seasons.

But there’s always more to it than box score numbers.

With that in mind, let’s get look at my grade for his performance against the Buccaneers.

The Chart

DeShone Kizer passing chart against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on August 26, 2017.

It should be noted that Buccaneers cornerback Brent Grimes was not in action, so Hue Jackson and Kizer were apparently targeting replacement corner Ryan Smith, to mixed results.

Jackson’s philosophy and Kizer’s traits are a good match, and judging by the chart, we can plan to expect plenty of downfield throws this season as they both attempt to stretch defenses to open up their running game.

The Good

Kizer was poised in the huddle and got plays in on time with exception to having to burn one timeout. He was more comfortable looking in the pocket, got the ball out more quickly, and seemed to be in rhythm with his receivers, for the most part.

He showed anticipation and NFL arm talent throughout his two quarters of action. Here are a couple clips of his best throws, thanks to Rotoworld’s Josh Norris.

Kizer’s first throw to Coleman was a dime, thrown where only Coleman could get it — the heckuva catch by the sophomore receiver shouldn’t be ignored — and a crucial third-down completion to help preserve field position in a close game. An incompletion or interception here would be a disaster.

And this one, as Norris points out, is a bona fide “Sunday play” by the rookie. The entire sequence demonstrated good field vision and awareness by Kizer, and then punctuated with a terrific on-the-move throw in a very tight window. It helped set up the Browns’ lone points of the first half.

The Bad

Throwing late across the middle of an NFL defense is never advised. It’s an ill-advised venture, even when there isn’t a linebacker sitting in deep zone over the middle watching your eyes and waiting for you to make the mistake of trying to throw it over him. That’s what Kizer faced when Lavonte David tipped his pass into the waiting arms of Vernon Hargreaves III, resulting in his lone interception of the game.

Kizer will learn with more experience when to attempt those throws and when to cut bait and look for another outlet, or scramble, or throw the ball away, or do anything else but try to make that throw.

He had another nearly intercepted throw that could have been returned for six points if not dropped by the defender. Locking in on his primary receiver was an issue the deeper he went into the game, and it looked like the defense started adjusting and watching his eyes. He’ll need to work on controlling defenses that peek in the backfield and burn them by changing to different reads, or manipulating them to open up his primary read.

Those things will come with time, and there’s going to be some bumps along the way as he builds that kind of arsenal of knowledge and experience this season.

The Grade

It’s hard to give an above-average grade to a player who finished an entire half of football with a poor passing completion percentage, three total points scored, and a poorly thrown interception. But I’m not going to hold everything in his stat-line against him. You have to account for two dropped passes, one in the red zone, and Duke Johnson’s fumble in the red zone which prevented more points from being scored. There was also a questionable offensive pass interference penalty on Corey Coleman that came the play before his intercepted pass.

Factoring in those things and some throwaways and drops, Kizer’s adjusted completion percentage was 46 percent. While that’s not good by any means, it doesn’t really show the whole story, either, as you’ve seen from above.

Kizer was good, not great, but he showed some of the things we’ve been waiting to see from him. Now, we’ll hope he can put together his lessons learned from training camp and preseason in order to help put points on the board to give his team a chance at some victories in 2017.

Grade: B-