The rookie second-round draft pick produced a 45-yard winning touchdown pass and enough good throws Thursday night to revive the debate that the Browns should start him in the season opener.
Kizer got the entire second half of work and had some memorable throws that demonstrated his arm strength and overall talent. He finished a 20-14 win over the New Orleans Saints with 184 yards passing plus the TD toss to Jordan Payton just after the two-minute warning.
There were times Kizer did not look good, but when he spun away from the rush early in the fourth quarter and found Richard Mullaney for 52 yards, his night changed. The Browns scored a touchdown on that possession, and two possessions later Kizer had some professional throws against the Saints' second- and third-team defenders.
One went to Mullaney outside for 18 yards on second-and-17. Another went to Rannell Hall for 22 yards on third-and-24 against a prevent defense. Kizer's arm strength got the ball to the spot on both plays. The touchdown followed on fourth down.
QB depth chart: Hue Jackson will have an interesting decision as he ponders Kizer's performance against backups and Osweiler's (6-of-14 for 42 yards) against the starters. The Browns don't play again until Aug. 21. If Jackson chooses to elevate Kizer to start against the Giants, he'll have plenty of practice time to see how Kizer responds. Given the way the other quarterbacks played, it almost seems as if Jackson has to give Kizer a longer look.
When it was starters vs. starters, the Browns looked ... Overmatched. The Saints' starting defense did not give up a first down in the first quarter, and limited the Browns' starting offense to 41 yards. The Browns also were penalized five times in the first quarter alone, as the offense sputtered every time it had the ball. It wasn't pretty, or effective.
One reason to be concerned: One reason? There are many reasons. On paper, this team lacks playmakers on offense, and that was apparent when starters were facing starters. The receivers couldn't get open and the quarterbacks struggled to get them the ball. It's going to take a lot more than moving Duke Johnson to the slot or to receiver in certain formations to get this offense going.
That guy could start: Linebacker Joe Schobert moved inside from his rookie season and is competing with Tank Carder to take over for Demario Davis, who was traded. Schobert made his case against the Saints with a sack and a pass breakup. He lacks the experience of Carder, and he's not the stoutest in the middle, but his athleticism might serve him well as he tries to win the job.
Rookie watch: Myles Garrett and Jabrill Peppers lived up to expectations. Garrett had a very effective one quarter of play (15 snaps, unofficially), with a tackle for loss and quarterback pressure that forced an incompletion and a punt. He showed little to prompt concern, and much to be excited about as far as what he could do in a full game. Peppers looked like a natural returning kicks. He brought a kickoff back 27 yards and a punt back 13 yards, and on both returns he made people miss. Peppers also was mentally kicking himself for fair-catching a punt when he had room to return it.
Receivers didn't win: Osweiler didn't get a lot done on his four drives, but it wasn't as if he got a ton of help. Kenny Britt, the veteran signed to replace Terrelle Pryor, did not get his feet down on a nice throw to the corner of the end zone that would have been a touchdown. Later, Britt did not get away from press coverage by De'Vante Harris and another fade fell incomplete. On fourth down from the 3, Osweiler threw a slant to Britt, who got beat to the spot by corner Ken Crawley. Receivers have to win individual competitions as well as any other player, and Britt didn't.
Not impressive: Cam Erving was a first-round pick in 2015. He's now in a fight to make the roster. With Joe Thomas getting the night off, the Browns started Shon Coleman at right tackle and put Erving at left. On the first possession, Erving was flagged for a false start, then flagged for holding to ensure his man did not blindside Osweiler. Erving recovered to make some decent blocks and protections, but when he misses he seems to miss badly and under the brightest of lights.