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Cleveland Browns say DeShone Kizer needs to improve consistency

By
Alex Butler

May 13 (UPI) -- DeShone Kizer only earned starts in two seasons at Notre Dame before being picked up in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Unsurprisingly, Cleveland Browns coach Hue Jackson needs to see more consistency from the former Golden Domer.

Players reported to Browns rookie minicamp on May 11. The camp ends Sunday. Jackson said the team, including its talented rookie class, has plenty of work to do.

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"We have work to do," Jackson told reporters Friday. "We have talented players, talented skill players, talented big guys. I like the size of our new guys. They fit our profile. They are very talented players. They have to start to learn how we play football here at the Cleveland Browns, and I think they will. That is why we drafted them so it is exciting."

Jackson said "it was fun" to see his new draft class in action, including No. 1 overall pick Myles Garrett.

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But many know what to expect when it comes to Garrett: a super athletic pass rusher that will demand respect from opposing offensive lines.

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Eager eyes glare at the young gunslinger, hoping for something the Browns haven't had at the position in decades: steady shoulders to sail the ship.

Kizer will wear No. 7 this season. He says he already had a connection to Jackson before he was drafted by the Browns. He worked with quarterback coach Zach Robinson before the draft, studying NFL terminology and learning perspective.

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Robinson worked with Kizer from December through March. He is a former quarterback for Ohio State and the Cincinnati Bengals. He was on the Bengals' roster when Jackson was still an position coach in Cincinnati.

Many NFL analysts expect the rookie to see early playing time under Jackson.

"It is a new transition for me," Kizer told reporters. "This is a brand new process, a situation that I have never been a part of. I am completely open with big ears to take as much coaching as I possibly can. I completely understand that the things I did in college are not going to just jump over to the NFL and be exactly what they were."

"It is going to take a lot of work so I am just trying to learn as much as I can and become a pro as quickly as I can."

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Jackson said that this year's class came into camp in better shape than last year. That means his staff will have to spend less time on conditioning the former prospects into NFL-caliber athletes and focus more on transitioning toward overall team improvement.

"We wanted to make sure these guys came in in better shape," Jackson said. "I could refer back to one guy on our team now who came back in really good shape. I referred that to this class that we didn't want to come in and all of a sudden be behind the eight ball from a conditioning standpoint. This class heeded that warning, and I think they in pretty good shape."

Kizer will be a huge reason for the Browns' success, or lack thereof, in 2017. He took over as Brian Kelly's full-time starter during his sophomore season for the Fighting Irish. That season he completed 62.9 percent of his passes for 2,880 yards, 21 scores and 10 interceptions. He followed his sophomore campaign by completing 58.7 percent of his throws for 2,925 yards, 26 scores and nine interceptions.

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Kizer showed some signs of regression during his final season in South Bend, which led to his slide as the No. 4 passer selected on the draft's second day.

While he is touted for his big arm, even earning comparisons to Steve McNair and Ben Roethlisberger, Kizer hasn't shown stability with his skill-set. His confidence was also questioned when he compared himself to Tom Brady and Cam Newton. He said he has the ability to be "the greatest quarterback to ever play,"

"No one else can do what I can do," Kizer told USA Today in April. "And I've truly figured out in this process, if I can maximize all my potential in every aspect of the game – this is bold – I do have the ability to be the greatest quarterback to ever play. Imagine taking [Tom] Brady's intellect and Brady's preparation and putting it on a guy with Cam Newton's body. Why can't I be the greatest? The only thing stopping me from it is me. That's what's driving me now."

But going from having "a lot of work to do" to "greatest" of all time is a slight leap, to be kind.

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"Consistency," Jackson said. "He is a very talented player. He is a big guy with a big arm and very bright. He has a lot of upside, but he has a lot of work to do and I think he knows that. You said it – it is just one practice. We are not going to get too high or too low. We are going to stay really consistent about what he is doing. He just has to keep working at it."

Jackson, who led the Browns to a 1-15 record in 2016, touted Kizer's intelligence and said he is taking constructive criticism in stride.

"He is taking it," Jackson said. "He has to. He is very bright, that's not an issue. You have to remember he was a young man playing in the shotgun probably 90 percent of the time and had not played under center and had not played really in a sophisticated pro-style offense. I thought he did some really good things today, but you have to do it again and again and again. The consistency of playing quarterback in the National Football League at a high level is a challenge. We will see if we can get him there."

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Kizer will contend with Cody Kessler, Brock Osweiler and Kevin Hogan for the starting gig.

Browns head of football operations Sashi Brown says the team isn't likely to add more quarterbacks before the season. He said he felt "comfortable" with the current crew.

"That would surprise me,'' Brown said on WKNR 850 AM earlier this month. ""I'll never say never, and we're always out there looking for what's available to us. But very few transactions happen around the league, maybe one or two a year that would affect the quarterback position, particularly a starting-caliber quarterback. So I would anticipate and feel really comfortable about the four guys we have going into the season.''

NFL.com reported on May 1 that Kessler is set to start offseason workouts as the team's starting quarterback. The USC product started eight games last season, going 0-8 as a starter, and completed 65.6 percent of his throws for 1,380 yards, six scores and two interceptions.

The Browns also used Josh McCown, Robert Griffin, Hogan, Charlie Whitehurst, Terrelle Pryor and Duke Johnson to throw passes in 2016.

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Osweiler, a Super Bowl champ, came over to the Browns in a March trade with the Houston Texans. He is the Browns' most experienced gunslinger with 21 career starts. Osweiler also has a 13-8 career record as a starter for the Denver Broncos and Texans. Last season he completed 59 percent of his passes for 2,957 yards, 15 scores and 16 picks. Coach Bill O'Brien eventually benched him in favor of Tom Savage.

Kessler was a third round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.

Kizer and Osweiler could become the Browns' No. 27 and No. 28 starting quarterbacks since 1999 next season if they earn starts.

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