As Notre Dame prepares to start the 2017 season with a new starting quarterback, former Irish starter Deshone Kizer will be preparing to make his first career NFL start as well. The Cleveland Browns will name Kizer their starting quarterback on Sunday after he started their third preseason game according to Cleveland.com. Kizer beat out Brock Osweiler and former USC quarterback Cody Kessler for the job.
Beating Cody Kessler isn’t a new feeling for Deshone Kizer. Kizer outdueled Kessler in 2015 when the Trojans came to town. Notre Dame won 41-31 that October night on their way to a 10 win season. This victory for Kizer, however, was more impressive given most felt that he would spend a year holding a clipboard and wearing a visor after dropping to the 2nd round in the NFL Draft in April.
According to the Cleveland.com report, Kessler might even fall behind Kevin Hogan on the quarterback depth chart for the Browns. That would pretty much means Kessler will be in line to be cut when the Browns have to trim their roster down to 53 before the season opener.
Kizer also had to beat out Brock Osweiler, but to anyone who saw Osweiler throw a football during the 2016 season, that wasn’t going to be much of a competition. The only thing that could have given Osweiler the nod over Kizer would have been if Kizer did not show that he was ready for the challenge. Through three preseason games he showed he was ready.
In his professional debut two weeks ago, Kizer lit up the New Orleans Saints backups to the tune of 184 yards on 11 of 18 passing. A week later, Kizer was 8 of 13 for 74 yards and ran for 35 yards on 5 attempts with a touchdown against the New York Giants.
Last night Kizer saw a starting defense for the first time and took a step back completing just 6 of 18 passes for 93 yards and his first interception of the preseason. Kizer’s rough numbers from last night, however, were impact both by a fumble from Duke Johnson at the 10 yard line and a drop by Kenny Britt at the 5 yard line.
For Kizer, being named the starter is a bit of a double edged sword. On one hand, winning the starter’s role is a tiny bit of vindication for his draft fall. On the other hand, he becomes the 27th starting quarterback for the Browns since 1999. He also won’t be surrounded with an abundance of talent at the skill positions after the Browns left Terrelle Pryor walk in free agency and replaced him with the aging Kenny Britt. A year on the sidelines, very well could have been better for Kizer’s long term development.
Well, Deshone Kizer will not have that luxury anymore. When the Browns open the season against the Pittsburgh Steelers on September 10th, Kizer will be the starting quarterback. Facing the Pittsburgh Steelers defense which features former Notre Dame defensive end Stephon Tuitt is no easy task for any NFL quarterback let alone one making his first career starter. Welcome to the NFL, rookie.
Tuitt by the way is quietly having himself a very nice NFL career and is reportedly in line for a $10 MM a year contract when he hits free agency next spring. Before he chases that contract, however, he’ll be chasing Kizer in the backfield on September 10. It’s won’t be easy for Kizer with the Browns supporting cast and the schedule they face in the AFC North. Pittsburgh and Baltimore are not the kind of defenses a rookie wants to face and Kizer will see them four times combined this fall.
For Notre Dame, having Kizer be successful in the NFL would be huge. Notre Dame has not had a marquee quarterback in the NFL for since Joe Montana and the most recent highly draft Irish quarterbacks – Brady Quinn and Jimmy Clausen -both fell flat in their professional careers. Kizer, like Quinn, did not get dealt a strong hand with the Browns, but if he is able to make a name for himself, Notre Dame would have a NFL quarterback that they could point to as a success story on the recruiting trail.