Cleveland Browns' quarterback situation up in the air again

By The Sports Xchange  |  Oct. 16, 2017 at 7:49 PM
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BEREA, Ohio -- Just like last Monday, Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson is beginning another week unsure which quarterback he will start against the Tennessee Titans next Sunday.

Jackson chose to bench DeShone Kizer after Kizer turned the ball over twice in the red zone in the loss to the New York Jets two weeks ago, but the experiment failed when Kevin Hogan threw three interceptions, one for a pick-six, in an embarrassing 33-17 loss to the Texans in Houston this past weekend.

"I'll make that (decision) by Wednesday," Jackson said on Monday. "I'm in the midst of it right now. Getting closer, but we'll know for sure on Wednesday."

Jackson is in a desperate situation with limited options. His team is 0-6 this year and 1-21 since he took over in January of 2016.

"I never said that Kevin was going to be the starter for the rest of season," Jackson said. "We'll go back, watch the tape, go from there and make a decision."

Because the Browns need to learn whether Kizer can be their quarterback of the future makes it seem Jackson is leaning toward going back to Kizer. Second-year quarterback Cody Kessler isn't under consideration.

"If I change quarterbacks, I'm going back to DeShone," Jackson said. "That was never a different type of thought that way. I wanted him to see the game from a different lens.

"I've gone on record of saying it -- (Kizer) will be a huge part of the future here and that will definitely go into my thought process here in the next several hours about what is best for all involved, what is best for the offensive football team, first and foremost, who can get the job done and then what is best for us as an organization as we continue to move forward."

Hogan became the 28th quarterback to start for the Browns since 1999. He replaced Kizer after halftime of the Jets game and looked in control while throwing two touchdown passes in that game. The Jets weren't ready for him, but the Texans were. They sacked him four times and applied pressure that forced Hogan to often sail passes over his intended target.

Jackson's reasoning in switching to Hogan was Hogan provided a better chance to win. Instead, the second-year player from Stanford showed why he was fourth on the depth chart when training camp began.

"I'm not shaken from this at all," Hogan said. "I felt like I was seeing a lot of things out there and they made a lot of great plays. I felt like they had a game plan for us. At the end of the day it's just about making plays, regardless of what they're doing.

"So for me it's about learning, and that's in my control and I'm going to come back and continue to get better. This was a tough first experience but definitely something to learn from and grow from and I think that there are some positives to take from it."

The Browns sustained no injuries in their game with the Texans, Jackson said on Monday.

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Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson threw three touchdown passes to lead his team to a 33-17 victory over the Browns. He also threw an interception Jason McCourty returned for 56 yards and a touchdown. McCourty did not feel like boasting after scoring the first touchdown of his nine-year career.

"(Watson) doesn't look like a rookie," McCourty said. "There were probably a few throws I know he would like to have back, but he has that offense rolling. I just give them the credit, they played really well today."

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Rookie defensive end Myles Garrett had one sack and five tackles in his second NFL game after missing four with a sprained ankle. The Texans at times used a hurry-up offense that prevented Garrett from running onto the field in passing situations.

"Once they're on the far side, you can't really switch out personnel, because you don't want to get a penalty," Garrett said. "You just have to wait until they slowed it down or we had our opportunity to get me back in, and just tried to make a difference."

Garrett now leads the team in sacks with three despite playing in only two games

NOTES: LB James Burgess (knee) missed Sunday's game against the Texans because of a knee injury. He was injured a week against the Jets. ... CB Jason McCourty, after intercepting a pass from Deshaun Watson, has three interceptions and two fumble recoveries this season. ... WR Kenny Britt (knee/groin) missed his second consecutive game. With Corey Coleman on injured reserve with a broken hand, it means the Browns played without their Week 1 starting receivers for the second consecutive week. ... K Zane Gonzalez kicked a 41-yard field goal in the first quarter to tie the game 3-3. It was a pressure kick even though it was early because he missed his only two field-goal tries last week.

REPORT CARD VS. TEXANS

--PASSING OFFENSE: F -- Kevin Hogan was a colossal failure in his first NFL start. He sailed passes over the heads of intended receivers most of the day. He threw three interceptions, and one was returned 82 yards for a pick-six. He was sacked four times and was called for intentional grounding in the end zone. He did nothing to merit a second start after head coach Hue Jackson benched DeShone Kizer, thinking Hogan would give the Browns a spark.

--RUSHING OFFENSE: B -- The Browns had success running the ball for a second straight week. That is an encouraging sign if they ever get to a point where the score is still close in the fourth quarter. Running back Isaiah Crowell rushed 12 times for 58 yards -- a modest total -- but he hit the hole with more authority than he showed in past games this season. Duke Johnson was elusive running five times for 40 yards. The run blocking has improved steadily the last three weeks.

--PASS DEFENSE: D-plus -- The 56-yard interception return for a touchdown by cornerback Jason McCourty saved this grade from being lower. The Browns entered the game ranked fifth defensively, but after Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson threw three more touchdown passes against them they have now given up 14 in six games. That puts them on a pace to give up 37. Houston receivers DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller had no trouble getting open in the Browns secondary.

--RUSH DEFENSE: C -- A 39-yard run by D'Onta Foreman set up Houston's third touchdown. Other than that, the Browns kept the Texans bottled up most of the day. They did not want Watson to beat them with his legs and were successful in that regard, holding the Texans quarterback to 23 yards on four carries. Middle linebacker Joe Schobert led the way with 12 tackles.

--SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- One of the few bright spots for the Browns while falling to 0-6 was rookie Jabrill Peppers getting bolder as a punt returner. After making a fair catch most of the time in earlier games, Peppers returned six punts for 43 yards on Sunday. He did not signal for a fair catch once. He could break a long one if he continues to field the football and run with it. Kicker Zane Gonzalez bounced back from two misses last week to connect on a 41-yard field goal.

--COACHING: C-minus -- It is easy to look back and say head coach Hue Jackson should never have benched rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer for Kevin Hogan, but Jackson figured Kizer needed at least one week to catch his breath. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has to figure a way to cut back on touchdown passes allowed. Either the schemes he is using or the players he is using aren't good enough to slow the passing attack of opponents.

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