Cleveland Browns Can’t Afford to Rush DeShone Kizer

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In a completely unsurprising development, all eyes are on the quarterbacks through the first few days of Cleveland Browns training camp.

The team is once again going through its annual summer tradition of hosting a QB competition to see who’ll be under center come Week 1. Right now it appears to be a two-horse race, as the incumbent – Cody Kessler – is trying to fend off rookie DeShone Kizer. While Brock Osweiler has more experience than both, there’s been very little evidence indicating the team is legitimately considering him as its season opening starter.

In terms of who’s actually ahead in the battle, more than a few people are giving the edge to Kizer. While these endorsements all typically come with some sort of “he still needs some polishing” caveat, the rookie is slowly becoming a popular pick to be starting in Week 1.

While you can count me as someone who thinks Kizer will end up winning the competition, I’m also doing so under the assumption he’ll have proven he’s more than ready to take the field by the time camp comes to an end.

If he hasn’t, the Browns have no choice but to leave him on the sideline. While Kizer plays an important role for the team this season, Cleveland can’t afford to rush him if he’s not ready.

The reasoning for why Kizer seems to have a lead in the QB battle is not too hard to believe. He’s clearly the most athletic of the three quarterbacks, something which has been on display since the start of camp. He’s well ahead of Kessler and Osweiler in terms of arm strength, as his throws show the most velocity and seemed unaffected during a particularly windy day of practice. Additionally, Kizer is Cleveland’s only dual-threat quarterback, proving to be a threat both through the air and on the ground.

This is all great to hear about a player who fell to the Browns in the second round of the draft. Again, though, this praise continues to be paired with comments like “he still has things to improve.”

Kizer’s footwork needs adjusting, as he’s had a fair share of throws go off-target due to being flustered in the pocket. While some of his passes have beat writers raving, he hasn’t been immune to bad misses. Of note, too, is the fact we’ve yet to see him in any sort of live-action situation. Practice reps are important, but how he performs in next week’s preseason opener will hold far more weight.

Obviously, the fact Kizer doesn’t yet look like a finished product isn’t a bad thing. However, it does highlight the need for the Browns to approach his development the right way.

Kizer is a crucial player for Cleveland this season, mainly for two reasons. Obviously he’s yet another candidate to potentially end the nonstop QB carousel this franchise has endured since 1999. However, how he plays will also impact how the Browns handle the 2018 draft.

With five picks in the first two rounds, and a great crop of quarterbacks coming out next year, Cleveland has to know whether or not it needs to spend a high selection on one of them. Part of its due diligence will include determining if Kizer is a solution or not.

As a result, the Browns can ill afford to hurt Kizer’s chances to make an impact by fast-tracking him on to the field. The most ideal situation for them is not needing to spend a prized pick on a quarterback next spring because they already have a potential franchise option in-house. If it’s determined Kizer isn’t that person, it’s fine, provided this conclusion wasn’t reached through Cleveland stunting his growth by throwing him to the wolves before he’s ready.

Again, there’d be no problem with him starting in Week 1, provided it’s clear he’s ready to do so. If there’s even a hint of doubt, though, the Browns have to resist the urge to see what they have in him.

For all we know, Kizer could be the quarterback of the future in Cleveland. Heck, the coaches should continue to groom him as if he is.

At the same time, this hardly means he should be penciled in at the top of the depth chart. Kizer will get his chance to prove himself, it just has to come when he looks well-prepared to do it effectively.

Casey Drottar is an independent sports writer. Subscribe to his podcast, or follow him on Twitter and Facebook

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