BEREA (AP) — The Cleveland Browns are 0-3 and their rookie quarterback leads the NFL with seven interceptions.
They also have been plagued by dropped passes and have committed double-digit penalties in their past two games, dampening any optimism from a perfect preseason.
Yet, second-round pick DeShone Kizer remains confident, even after being picked off three times and fumbling once Sunday in Cleveland’s 31-28 loss at Indianapolis.
“We’re right where we want to be, we just don’t have the wins to support it,” Kizer said Monday. “Everything is right there. We have the talent, we have the players, we have the mentality.
“That’s what is most disappointing right now. We understand what it takes to win, but it’s about executing consistently to get those wins.”
The Browns’ next opportunity for a victory arrives Sunday, when Cincinnati visits. The Bengals are 0-3 for the first time since 2008, and Cleveland is 1-18 in two seasons under coach Hue Jackson.
“This is a big game for us because this is the game we are in, and it’s here at home against a division opponent,” Jackson said. “None of us like losing.”
For better or worse, Kizer has become the focal point of the franchise. He has 646 yards passing, three touchdowns, eight turnovers, and a pedestrian .528 completion percentage in three starts.
The 6-foot-4, 233-pounder has demonstrated that he can throw hard, but is still learning how to protect it.
Baltimore intercepted Kizer three times and forced him to lose a fumble in a 24-10 Ravens win in Week 2.
“I think he knows the buck starts and stops with him,” Jackson said. “He has to do his part, and he has to do it better. We’ve turned the ball over quite a bit in the last several weeks, and we can’t do that if we want to win football games.”
On the season, Kizer has the 32nd (and lowest) passer rating in the league at 53.2 and is tied for the fifth-most sacks taken in the NFL with 10.
Browns football operations director Sashi Brown has done him no favors by assembling a weak receiving group.
Free agent signee Kenny Britt and second-year pro Ricardo Louis started at the position against the Colts. Rashard Higgins, Kasen Williams and Jordan Leslie — all waived during the preseason — also saw action.
“I think this team can win,” Jackson said, turning the focus to the front office. “But that question that you just asked (if it was built to win now), I think that’s something you have to talk to Sashi about and the executive team.”
Jackson said Britt and Williams were partially responsible for Kizer’s passes being turned into interceptions by Indianapolis cornerback Rashaan Melvin. Britt tipped an off-target throw in the air, while Williams was not running the correct route.
“My thing is if there is an opportunity to make a play for our quarterback, let’s see if we can make it,” Jackson said. “The one thing we know in this league is tipped balls don’t find the ground, they find other teams. We have to work better together.”
Given the lack of experience at quarterback and wide receiver, Jackson was asked if it was realistic to expect them to be playmakers this season.
“We have the group that we have,” he said. “My job is to coach the guys that are here.”
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