CLEVELAND — In a normal circumstance, DeShone Kizer might not have done enough Saturday night to win the Cleveland Browns starting job, but these are not normal times for the Browns at the most important position on the team.
Kizer had good moments in Saturday’s 13-9 preseason victory over Tampa Bay, with four of his six completions in the first half coming on third down. But he also struggled with accuracy, threw an interception and was hampered by poor field position.
If the Browns had a veteran to hold the position while Kizer continued to grow, they probably would lean that way.
But Hue Jackson has already taken the starting job from Brock Osweiler, and it’s hard to tell a team a guy will start once he’s lost the job. The same is true of Cody Kessler, who was given the first chance to win the job and wound up on the third team.
Kizer finished one half of play 6-of-18 for 93 yards with no touchdowns and one interception. His best throw was for 32 yards down the sideline to Corey Coleman on third down. His worst was the interception, when he stared down a receiver and allowed linebacker Lavonte David to read his eyes.
Kizer’s rating was 28.2, but he started three drives inside the 10 and had a third-down pass on his first drive dropped by Kenny Britt. He showed promise but also showed there will be growing pains in his rookie season.
QB depth chart: Coach Hue Jackson said his decision to start Kizer in the third practice game was for the third practice game only. Jackson will re-evaluate the situation, but it’s tough to see him going away from Kizer for the opener against Pittsburgh after he said Kizer was on track and trending toward being the starter. Anything can happen with this position and this team, but the only two realistic options Jackson has are Kizer and Cody Kessler. Of those two, Kizer could be the future, so the Browns figure to simply go with him against Pittsburgh.
When it was starters vs. starters, the Browns looked …: Competitive, though the Browns were helped by the fact the Bucs were without defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and receivers DeSean Jackson and Mike Evans. The Browns’ starting defense has not allowed a touchdown to starters in any of the three games, but the offense looks as punchless as feared. The running game is there, but the receivers after Corey Coleman are suspect, and Kizer may have some flaws exposed when he plays in the regular season. He can overcome that, but it may be a painful learning process.
One reason to be concerned: Coleman had a nice game with four receptions, but the next three receivers in the pecking order — Britt, Ricardo Louis and Rashard Higgins — combined for one reception, along with one third-down drop by Britt of a perfect Kizer throw. It can’t be said enough: In an era when the passing game is dominant, the Browns have uncertainty at quarterback and receiver.
That guy could start: Joe Schobert continued his strong preseason with his first start at middle linebacker. Schobert moved inside this season and took the starting job when Tank Carder tore a knee ligament Monday night against the Giants. He was very active Saturday with (unofficially) six tackles — four solo — and one pass defensed in a one half of play. Schobert has earned the starting job.
Rookie watch: Jabrill Peppers has solidified a starting spot in the secondary. If he hasn’t, there’s something wrong in Peoria. Peppers ended Tampa Bay’s first possession with an interception at the goal line on a play on which he looked like a veteran free safety patrolling the middle of the field. Peppers is around the ball and looks like a natural in the secondary and returning kicks.
Injury report: Fullback Danny Vitale left in the first half with a sprained ankle and did not return. His loss for any length of time would be significant because he is the only fullback on the roster.