CLEVELAND -- Coaches in the National Football League pull no punches with players when it comes to getting better production both on the field and in the classroom, and that same standard applies to rookies and veterans alike.
While some fold under the intense pressure, the Cleveland Browns have been able to push rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer because of the way he responded to the coaching, and that has helped him go from third-stringer to starter in a matter of three preseason games.
“That is our culture here with our football team,” Browns coach Hue Jackson said. “On offense, defense and special teams, we tell all of our players.
“That is my instruction to our coaches. Let’s be honest with our players. Let’s tell them what they need to do better. Let’s tell them what they are not doing and what they are doing well. There are times to praise them, too, but I think if you be honest with players, you will get the best out of them.”
In his two years as a starter at the University of Notre Dame, the 6-foot-4, 230-pound Kizer completed 423 of his 696 attempts for 5,809 yards and 47 touchdowns against 19 interceptions.
Pressed into service because of an injury to Malik Zaire during the 2015 season, Kizer completed 211 of his 335 attempts for 2,884 yards and 21 touchdowns against 10 interceptions over 13 games with the Fighting Irish.
On the way to a 4-8 record during the 2016 season, Kizer battled through coaching issues to complete 212 of his 361 attempts for 2,925 yards and 26 touchdowns against nine interceptions despite being sacked 25 times behind the Fighting Irish’s struggling offensive line.
“I think he is an everyday guy,” Jackson said. “Come into work, do what you are supposed to do, do a little more, ask the right questions and go through practice. I thought he had a good practice. Some things to clean up like normal, but it was good.”
Despite the lack of success, and even criticism from Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly, who said his former quarterback was not yet ready for the NFL, Kizer has shown his skills with the Browns.
Through the first three games of the preseason, Kizer completed 25 of his 49 attempts for 351 yards and one touchdown against two interceptions. Despite completing just 51 percent of his passes, Kizer averaged 7.2 yards per attempt, the best of all Browns quarterbacks this preseason.
In the Browns’ 13-9 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium last Saturday night, Kizer completed just six of his 18 throws with an interception, but gained 93 yards and converted multiple first downs through the air.
“Whatever happened there happened there,” Jackson said. “It was going to be what our relationship, how we built it from the first day forward. I am pretty much a straight shooter, and I would think most players like it that way. They like to know when they are doing well, and they like to know when they are not doing as well, and what they can do to be better.”
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