At midway point, DeShone Kizer leaves many questions unanswered

LONDON -- At the midway point of a miserable Cleveland Browns season, DeShone Kizer is not answering a lot of questions about his longterm viability.

Kizer is 21. He cares, he works and he badly wants to be the Browns' quarterback. He’s also working with a supporting cast that defies belief and logic. The Browns do not have one dependable receiver, nor do they have one who can separate from coverage and make a catch routinely. The omission of that position for this team should be a significant question in every mind: How could the Browns leave a roster so glaringly weak in a passing era?

But after enough games, every player shows who he is. Eight games is enough to make a judgment on Kizer, who has dealt with losing, being yanked from the game twice and getting benched once.

Kizer is learning in a rookie season that his college coach said should have been spent in college. The same coach also said that Kizer was the most talented quarterback in the draft.

Both of those statements made by Notre Dame's Brian Kelly are true.

When Kizer drops back, uses proper fundamentals and throws the right way, he throws a lovely pass. He has great raw talent.

But the problem is that often it’s not thrown where it needs to be.

The one number that jumps out about Kizer is completion percentage. NFL teams cannot win in this day and age with a quarterback completing 52.1 percent, which is Kizer’s mark after half a season.

In Sunday’s loss to the Vikings, Hue Jackson went with the formula the Browns designed in the offseason -- play defense, play safe and try to capitalize on mistakes.

That formula stretches a team to its limit.

“I think everything has got to be perfect for us to have a chance to win a football game,” Jackson said.

Or … when receivers or defenders are imperfect, it’s tough to win.

But to say all of Kizer’s shortcomings are due to his receivers isn’t fair either. There have been drops, bad routes and missed chances, but there also have been overthrows, underthrows and flat-out misses.

The Browns had an early chance for a touchdown Sunday but Kizer badly missed David Njoku down the sideline. Coaches spend hours drawing up that play call for certain situations, and on this instance the call worked, except Kizer missed his receiver.

He’s done that at other times this season. He’s overthrown Njoku two or three times, and against the Titans threw a line drive on a fade when air was needed under the ball. Those go along with a Ricardo Louis drop down the sideline that would have been a touchdown.

Over time, a player is what his numbers show. And Kizer’s accuracy in the NFL has done nothing to erase the concerns about his accuracy as he left Notre Dame.

In the most fundamental of game plans against the Vikings, it took three garbage-time throws in the final minute to get Kizer over 50 percent for the day. Prior to those three gimme throws, Kizer was 15-for-31 with a yards per attempt of 4.3.

Those are not NFL numbers.

A couple key points in the game stood out. On one third down with the game in the balance, Seth DeValve broke outside. A front shoulder throw that led DeValve might have kept the drive going. Instead, Kizer threw it behind him and at his feet. The Browns punted.

To his credit, Kizer took the blame, but that admirable trait does not erase the throw.

When the Vikings scored a touchdown to go ahead, Kizer did little to move the team. Instead he threw inaccurately and seemed to look at one receiver. Prior to the three clean-up completions, Kizer was 7-for-19 for 39 yards in the second half.

Those are also not NFL numbers.

At the midway point of the season, Kizer is at 52.1 percent with a league-high 11 interceptions and a yards-per-attempt of 5.4

Again, not NFL numbers.

Whether another quarterback with the same supporting cast would be much better is up for debate, but at some point a quarterback has to own his numbers.

The Browns are barreling full speed (again) toward the first pick in the draft.

Kizer has eight games to convince the team that quarterback is not the way to go with that first pick.