CLEVELAND — It seems like an appropriate time to revive the never-ending Cleveland Browns quarterback debate.
Rookie DeShone Kizer threw for 184 yards and a game-winning, 45-yard touchdown on fourth down with 1:52 left as the Browns won their preseason opener Thursday night, 20-14 over the New Orleans Saints.
“There’s a lot for him to learn from, but I thought there were a lot of good things that he did,” coach Hue Jackson said after his first preseason win as the Browns’ coach [he went 0-4 a year ago]. “Stood in there and made some plays with his arm.
“But he’ll be the first to tell you there’s so many things he’s got to grow from.”
Kizer followed Brock Osweiler and Cody Kessler, neither of whom got a lot done. Kizer got all the snaps in the second half, facing backups and third-teamers. But he led the offense to two fourth-quarter touchdowns. Kizer essentially did everything he needed to put himself back into the discussion about starting the season opener.
“That’s something for Coach Jackson,” Kizer said. “He understands the situation a lot better than I ever will. And I know that I can trust in him to make sure that this development process goes in the right direction and continues to move forward the way we want it to.”
Jackson said it was too early to talk about the starter for the second preseason game, Aug. 21 against the New York Giants, and offered some moderating thoughts.
“I think it’s way too early to talk about that,” Jackson said. “I need to go watch the tape and all that. Let’s see it for what it was. The guy made some plays at the end that gave us a chance to win, but there’s still so much growth that needs to happen for this young player.
“We all know he’s talented, but there’s still some things he needs to do better.”
Kizer’s night was highlighted by several impressive medium and long throws.
The 45-yarder dropped perfectly into Jordan Payton‘s hands, as Kizer had the option of two plays as he lined up for the snap with 1:58 left. He audibled out of the run and chose to go for the game winner.
Earlier in the quarter, he made something from nothing as he spun away from the rush and found Richard Mullaney for 52 yards to set up a touchdown.
On the game-winning drive, Kizer had an 18-yard throw on third-and-17 and a 22-yard completion on third-and-24 on the play before the game-winning throw.
On every one, he showed the arm strength and talent that have appeared now and then in practice.
Kizer finished 11-for-18 for 184 yards with a TD and no interceptions — and a rating of 114.1.
Osweiler could not get a first down in the first quarter but did get the Browns to the 7-yard line in the second quarter. There, he didn’t get much help, as Kenny Britt did not get both feet down on a nice throw to the corner of the end zone and then could not beat cornerbacks on two other potential scoring throws.
Myles Garrett, the first pick in the draft, had a productive and efficient quarter of play. In 15 unofficial snaps, Garrett had a quarterback pressure and tackle for a loss.