CLEVELAND — DeShone Kizer was a glum fellow as he strode to the podium following the Cleveland Browns’ 10th loss in 10 games this season, a 19-7 drubbing by the Jacksonville Jaguars.
“It hurts,” Kizer said.
Because Kizer struggled badly in this loss, personally accounting for four turnovers — one that gave the Jaguars a defensive touchdown, another that set up a touchdown.
“I am trying to do whatever I can to string together some games and continue to prove my development to my teammates and to continue to earn the respect of them,” Kizer said. “This is the first game that I have come off of the field feeling as if I didn’t prove that I have developed yet.”
This was a candid admission from a proud player. But as his rookie season continues, Kizer is not approaching the level of consistency that the Browns would like to see. With the team almost assured of the first overall pick in the draft in April, the likelihood that they select a quarterback is becoming cement-like solid with each game.
Kizer’s two interceptions give him 14 for the season, a league high. He twice lost the ball while being pressured by the Jaguars’ relentless pass rush. The second gave Jacksonville a defensive touchdown.
Kizer’s second interception was a short throw to Rashard Higgins toward the sideline that sailed high.
“You get paid not to miss in this league,” Kizer said.
The first followed a run fake when Kizer did not see middle linebacker Telvin Smith slide into the throwing lane.
“It was one heck of a play by the backside linebacker for playing through his coverage into where the ball was going,” Kizer said.
“He needs to see that guy,” coach Hue Jackson said. “He knows that. It is something he has to work through.”
Kizer did come back with a nice 27-yard throw to Duke Johnson for a touchdown, but the Browns had nine possessions (and one kneel down to end the half) after they cut the deficit to 10-7. They gained a total of 124 yards and had eight first downs on those nine possessions — and 36 of those yards came when the game was out of reach and less than a minute remained.
There are contributing factors to Kizer struggling.
The Browns played the league’s top-ranked scoring defense and the group is also tops in sacks. The Jaguars have a dominant, nasty, relentless defense.
Jackson said the Browns are a young team prone to inconsistency. He’s right about that, and Kizer is one of the youngest players in the league.
And Jackson reiterated that his team needs to be “almost perfect” to win a game, which is a statement on his roster.
“That means no turnovers,” Jackson said. “Fundamentally we have to do everything right to have a chance.”
In consecutive weeks since the bye, the Browns had chances. But they lost to Detroit when they scored 24 because the defense didn’t play well. Against Jacksonville, the defense played well but they lost because the offense scored seven.
Six games remain and Jackson emphasized that Kizer will absolutely start against the Bengals on Sunday and for every game he can after that.
“Let’s let him play,” Jackson said. “Let’s let him play this thing out. As long as he is healthy, let’s keep putting him out there. I want to walk away from this season knowing exactly what DeShone Kizer is top to bottom. I think he deserves that.
“I know this is tough on him.”
Tougher, no doubt, than Kizer ever imagined.