Hue Jackson stands by DeShone Kizer, says he mainly played 'lights out' vs. Bengals

BEREA, Ohio -- DeShone Kizer's numbers on Sunday against Cincinnati showed he had the lowest completion percentage and fewest yards in his four-game NFL career.

But to hear his coach, the Cleveland Browns rookie played well.

"I thought [Sunday] he played as well as he has played all year," Hue Jackson said. "With the exception of missing a couple re-IDs and protections, he played lights out. He didn't take sacks. He threw the ball away. He didn't have turnovers.

"That is improvement, so I want everybody to know I thought, regardless of what the numbers were for him, I thought the guy played extremely well.”

Clearly, Jackson was sincere in his assessment, but "lights out" now enters the lexicon of terms used to describe a losing Browns team over the years. It joins Carmen Policy saying Pittsburgh police called Gerard "the finest, nicest man they had ever arrested." And Butch Davis saying the defensive line at times dominated a game when Jamal Lewis broke the NFL record for rushing yards.

Kizer's numbers Sunday showed he completed 16-of-34 (47 percent) for 118 yards (a season low), no touchdowns (matches a season low) and one interception, giving him an NFL-high eight interceptions for the season. And the Browns lost 31-7.

These are the growing pains a rookie quarterback experiences, though, and Jackson looks at things differently from fans. With a young quarterback, coaches are concerned with growth and incremental progress, reads and protections and adjusting plays at the line, and being accurate.

A big problem for Kizer has been that he has not been getting much help. Kenny Britt twice in two weeks has had a ball tip off his hands and turn into an interception. Against Cincinnati, it came inside the 10. A week before, receiver Kasen Williams broke in on a route toward a safety and Kizer read that he would sit down in a vacant spot. That interception also came inside the 10. In the past two games, receivers have dropped 10 passes.

Four games do not define a player's season, but it is long enough to observe some trends. And Kizer's are not all positive.

After completing 67 percent in the opener, he has gone three games in a row without completing 50 percent.

His yards-per-attempt has gone from 7.40 to 5.87 to 5.15 to 3.47.

His per-game rating has gone from 85.7 to 27.3 to 50.1 to 43.5

The one positive trend: Sacks have dropped form seven to two to one to one.

Whether it's because of him or others is the question.

"We have to continue -- I have said it from the start of this for him -- we have to support him every way that we can, offensively, defensively and special teams, to help this young man get a win under his belt, because I think he is doing some good things," Jackson said. "No one would know that just because we are 0-4, and at the end of the day, he does understand that his job is to win football games and to help this team win.

"[Sunday], I think he did all that he could in the time that he played. We have to continue to get better around him. We have to continue to coach better around him. That is what we are going to try to do as we head into the second quarter of the season."

Doing all he can is certainly relative. According to ProFootballReference.com, Kizer is one of only 15 quarterbacks since 2010 to have at least 30 attempts and 118 yards or fewer in a game. Every one of those teams lost those games. Since 1950, that 30-attempts/118-or-fewer-yards combination has happened just 45 times.

Jackson conceded he has sought advice for the best way to handle a rookie quarterback on a losing team. "It is tough," he said. "It is tough being a quarterback on a team that you are trying to win and every week it is some of the same questions. Please, y'all write that down, OK? When you see this guy, be gentle with him, OK?

"At the same time, it is his job."

The coach remains steadfastly in Kizer's corner. "I have total confidence in DeShone," Jackson said.