BEREA (AP) — Nothing screams rookie about DeShone Kizer.
After wrapping up a news conference Friday, when he handled questions about Cleveland’s three-way quarterback competition with the finesse of a polished politician, Kizer was escorted into the Browns’ facility with two members of the team’s media relations staff flanking him.
If he’s not the starter, Kizer certainly is being treated like one.
He looks ready for the part.
Kizer took snaps with the starting offense during the Browns’ first practice of training camp on Thursday and coach Hue Jackson acknowledged afterward that the former Notre Dame standout has made significant progress since minicamp. Kizer is not making the same mistakes and he is moving with a confidence that indicates he knows he belongs.
“The way that they’ve thrown me into the fire in the last couple months has been one that has allowed me to grow quickly and to become comfortable pretty fast,” he said before Friday’s workout. “It’s (the starting job) out of my hands, and I look forward to just trying to play well when my time does come.”
It may be here soon.
The second-round pick is competing with veterans Cody Kessler and Brock Osweiler to be Cleveland’s Week 1 starter, a job that has been mostly a part-time gig in recent years because of injuries and roster shake-ups.
But while Kizer lacks the experience of Osweiler (13 NFL wins) or Kessler (eight career starts), the 6-foot-4, 233-pounder appears to have all the necessary tools to handle starting duties.
At Notre Dame, Kizer played on a big stage nearly every week, and Fighting Irish coach Brian Kelly prepared him for the scrutiny he’ll get as a pro by demanding perfection on every play.
The Browns, who have been in a nearly constant search for a franchise quarterback for most of the past 20 years, aren’t going to rush Kizer into the lineup. However, coach Hue Jackson and his staff won’t hold him back if they feel Kizer gives them the best chance against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sept. 10.
Just last season, Philadelphia started rookie Carson Wentz and Dallas pushed Dak Prescott onto the field for their openers. It’s possible the Browns may do the same with Kizer, whose goal is to start — now or in the near future.
“There’s multiple ways of getting there,” Kizer said. “This is an awesome environment to learn and develop. Coach Jackson’s had a lot of success with quarterbacks and developing quarterbacks and to have the veteran offensive line, it’s a great opportunity for me to learn as much as I can to hopefully have some success early — if that time has come.”
Kizer isn’t skipping any steps in his development. Following minicamp, the 21-year-old spent five weeks in California working with Kessler quarterback guru Tom House, who helped him fine-tune his throwing mechanics.
He also picked the brains of NFL QBs Matt Ryan, Matt Stafford and Blake Bortles, hoping to learn all he could about his new profession.
“I was able to kind of be a fly on the wall to guys who have had a lot success,” Kizer said. “Matt Ryan’s a guy who obviously was the MVP and has shown that he’s headed in the right direction to be a great quarterback.
“Some of the things that he does within his workouts I like to emulate myself. He’s a guy who’s all about quality over quantity and takes every rep seriously.”
Osweiler, who went 8-6 with Houston last season, has already noticed a major change in Kizer and has been impressed with his quick growth.
“DeShone is a tremendous quarterback,” he said. “He just keeps getting better and better. He’s in great shape physically. He’s really on the screws when it comes to his playbook. The kid has a big arm. There’s not a throw he can’t make. He has a ton of talent. I’m very excited to see what he does.”
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