BEREA, Ohio -- Rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer may not have been the first signal-caller on the field for the Cleveland Browns in their preseason opener against the New Orleans Saints at FirstEnergy Stadium last Thursday night, but he certainly made the most of his first NFL opportunity.
Kizer played the entire second half and completed 11 of his 18 passes for 184 yards and a 45-yard touchdown in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter on the way to leading the Browns to a 20-14 victory over the Saints.
“He gives you big-play ability in the passing game at the quarterback position,” Browns quarterback David Lee said.
“You guys saw it the other day, the two deep balls. He’s got a great long arm, but he can throw corner routes, post routes, skinny post on a line. He doesn’t limit you. You can throw whatever you want to because he’s got such great arm talent.”
PHOTOS: DeShone Kizer makes NFL debut with Cleveland Browns
On Kizer’s first drive of the game, he completed three of his first four passes for 11 yards and rushed for another 13 on two carries, including a long run of seven yards.
Then, on the Browns’ next possession, Kizer engineered a five-play, 60-yard drive in less than three minutes, and the offense punctuated the effort with a one-yard touchdown carry from running back Terrence Magee.
After a kickoff out of bounds gave the Browns a first and 10 from their own 40-yard line, Kizer tested the Saints deep and completed a 52-yard pass to wide receiver Richard Mullaney that moved the ball from the Cleveland 47-yard line to the New Orleans one.
Later in the game, when facing a fourth and two, on New Orleans’ side of the 50-yard line, Kizer dropped back to pass, looked off a defender, waited for wide receiver Jordan Payton to get separation from the cornerback, and then, led his receiver into the end zone with the throw.
But Kizer’s playmaking was not as easy as it seemed, not when he had to run to the sideline in the middle of a drive and get a new helmet.
“He had some adversity,” Lee said. “His helmet battery quit working. He was out there on his own there for a little while. I thought he did a good job overcoming some adversity. I think he's doing better all the time.
“He really is with the play delivery and as the team changes, the game plan changes, there's a new set of memorization that's got to take place, and it's hard. It's not easy. I promise you it's not easy what he's doing. He's doing a heck of a job.”
And along with the physical development Lee has seen in Kizer since the start of training camp, there has definitely been a boost in confidence in the young quarterback.
“DeShone has enough confidence for the whole team,” Lee said. “I’m not worried about his confidence. He’s good about taking instruction. He’s good about trying to do what we want him to do. Has it all happened yet? Not yet, but it’s coming and he’s thinking right.”