CLEVELAND (AP) — Loose with the football, DeShone Kizer held onto his starting job.
Cleveland’s rookie quarterback, who upped his NFL-leading interception total to 19 with two more picks Sunday, will start this week when the winless Browns play in Chicago.
“It is still DeShone,” coach Hue Jackson said Monday.
Following Sunday’s 27-10 loss to Baltimore, Jackson raised the possibility of a change at quarterback after Kizer had three more turnovers and appeared to take the loss — Cleveland’s 14th straight — particularly hard.
However, Jackson said he feels Kizer is mentally and physically prepared to continue a season that has been brutally tough on the league’s youngest quarterback.
“If he wasn’t up to the challenge, then if I needed to make a change, then I would,” Jackson said. “I think he is up to the challenge. He has some improving to do. He has some work to do this week to continue to get better, but he is going to start at quarterback for us.”
The 21-year-old Kizer has been wildly inconsistent for the Browns (0-14), who haven’t surrounded him with enough talent and yet are trying to decide if he can be their long-term QB. From week to week, Kizer’s performances have ranged from solid to sorry,
“I hate to say it this way but it is true — we have seen a pendulum swing like this with DeShone,” Jackson said. “This week it did not go so well. The next week he plays well. This week he does not go as well. The next week he plays well. Hopefully, that cycle holds true and this week he comes back, gets himself ready and he goes out there and plays his tail off.
“That is the way I see it and I still think with him playing with his teammates that he gives us the best opportunity to get us a victory.”
The Browns have two weeks to avoid becoming the second team to go 0-16, and they believe Kizer gives them the best chance to get a win despite his turnover troubles.
Against the Ravens, Kizer forced one pass into triple coverage in Baltimore’s end zone and badly overthrew a receiver for another pick. He finished 20 of 37 for 146 yards and got sacked twice, fumbling on a strip that was recovered by the Ravens for a touchdown.
But despite the rough outing, Jackson feels the only way for Kizer to improve is to keep playing him. Jackson has tried to modify his game plan to suit Kizer, but it’s on his young QB to value the ball.
“He has to find the small wins for himself as he is in those situations and playing,” Jackson said. “He has to do a better job of taking care of the ball, and he has to do a better job of understanding the situation as it happens.”
Kizer’s body language wasn’t good after the game, prompting Jackson to entertain a switch. It’s understandable he would be dejected, but several of his teammates feel Kizer has grown despite the lumps he’s taken.
“DeShone, being a young guy, a rookie coming in, has handled this as well as he can,” center JC Tretter said. “It has obviously been a long year. I applaud him and his ability to come in each and every day looking to get better and looking to develop and understand more of the offense and understand more looks. In the building, we see the progress of him recognizing defenses, picking up blitzes and everything like that.
“He is doing everything you ask for him to. Obviously, the results haven’t been there as a team, but I think DeShone, his attitude and the way he prepares is exactly what you look for.”