AFC North: Cleveland Browns
BEREA, Ohio -- Hue Jackson offered passionate support of rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer this week, saying his belief in Kizer has not wavered.
His position wasn’t surprising; that he felt the need to express it just two games into the season was a mild surprise. Jackson even used the two words that have been so perplexing to the Browns the past several years.
“We want this guy to be our franchise quarterback,” Jackson said. “I stand behind this guy wholeheartedly.”
Kizer had a rough second game in Baltimore with three interceptions, one lost fumble and one quarter missed due to a migraine. But Jackson said Kizer accepted responsibility for his errors and is ready to go against the Colts on Sunday.
“He gets it,” Jackson said.
Jackson brought up several factors affecting Kizer, including an offensive line that did not play together in the preseason due to injury (mainly to guard Joel Bitonio) and rest given Joe Thomas, the addition of new receivers, and his age and inexperience.
The lack-of-cohesion argument is interesting. The Browns for years have limited their starters’ play in preseason, then lamented them not being ready when the season comes. The team controls who plays in the preseason, and year after year the Browns give more snaps to players who will not be on the roster than those who will. Coaches are loathe to risk losing a starter to injury, but a losing team can’t cry about the decisions it makes that slow cohesiveness when it doesn’t build it in preseason.
As for Kizer, Jackson simply said what he's said all along -- that he’s a young quarterback and the team will ride out his highs and lows.
“Let’s be honest, let’s think about where this young man has come from and what he is doing,” Jackson said. “He is playing with a bunch of men. He’s young. He’s 21 years old. He is leading an organization that hasn’t been what it needs to be. He’s surrounded by a ton of guys who, we haven’t won a ton of games, and he’s trying to uplift everything. There is a lot of pressure.
“Let’s just be honest, it is. He is trying to play at a peak level. He is trying to learn this offense, learn the language, adjust to some of the better defenses in the National Football League in the last two weeks, and then score points and throw the ball to guys that he hasn’t thrown the ball to every day. That is hard.
“You can say what you want, that is hard. That is not an excuse. That is a fact.”
Jackson pointed out that he never promised the Browns offense would be “a juggernaut” early in the season.
“This guy has played two games in the National Football League and we are already trying to compare what he does, or we act like he should be playing like Brett Favre or something. That is not going to happen,” Jackson said.
His comments were interesting, because locally at least there has been a fair amount of patience and understanding with Kizer. He basically has played the way he was expected to play. He was good in a close loss to Pittsburgh and struggled in a loss to the Ravens. The Browns lost two games they were given little chance to win, and Kizer learned both weeks about getting rid of the ball and about playing on the road.
“I think this guy has what it takes,” Jackson said. “He is growing every day. He grew even through the negative last week. It’s not fun, but he is learning. He is learning that you guys are going to crucify him when things aren’t going well and he understands you guys are going to praise him when things do go well. That is part of it. That is part of this process for him, and he has to go through it. Do I like going through it? No. But I also like having a quarterback that we all feel comfortable with that potentially could be the guy for years to come in this organization. That is what I think is important.”
Asked if Kizer had been crucified this week, Jackson backed away, saying that was probably too strong.
“Sometimes when you have a good game, we start to build him up a little bit,” Jackson said. “Then, all of a sudden, it’s a high and here comes a low. He didn’t play as well. All of a sudden, ‘Uh oh. Is he this? Is he that?’ This guy is still the same guy. Like many rookies, I can name many guys in this league who have thrown three interceptions in a game, four interceptions in a game, and came back the next week and played their tails off. That is going to happen. I don’t like it. Nobody does. But hopefully he will keep growing from it and keep getting better.”
BEREA, Ohio -- The migraine that forced rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer to miss about one quarter of the Cleveland Browns' loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday has cleared, but his ego remained bruised.
“That was one of my worst performances ever in any sport I’ve ever played,” Kizer said Monday.
Not many would argue. Kizer lost a fumble and threw three interceptions in the 24-10 loss to the Ravens. Kizer completed 15 of 31 passes for 182 yards and was sacked twice in his second start. The Browns, however, treated the day's struggle more as a matter of course than reason for alarm.
“Guys, listen, this guy is a young quarterback,” coach Hue Jackson said. “I appreciate and I have the same expectation that you do, that every ball that is open he’ll throw it straight and he’ll throw every ball with pinpoint accuracy and there will be no issues.
“This is his second game in the NFL. We just played the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens, and he didn’t play as well yesterday. But the sky is not falling down by any stretch of the imagination. This guy is everything I think he is.”
Kizer was humbled by what happened Sunday, and growth, Jackson said, comes from humility.
“That’s why I say, quarterbacks got to start on their knees,” Jackson said. “They’re going to bring him to your knees, so you might as well start off on your knees. So get down there. And that’s where he is today. And he’ll grow from this.”
As for the migraines, Kizer said he has a chronic issue with them that is hereditary.
“They typically come twice a year,” Kizer said. “You just try to keep yourself out of stressful position and continue to have regular sleep habits and a good diet.”
The worst ones he’s had have caused numbness in his limbs or face, as well as blurred or diminished vision, in addition to intense pain.
Because he’s dealt with them, he knows to always have his medications with him and to take them when feels the onset of symptoms. If handled properly, Kizer said the symptoms can clear in as quickly as 45 minutes to an hour.
“I’ve been getting them since I’ve been young, so I kind of understand that when one’s getting ready to trigger it's time to to go take your meds and try to get past the symptoms as fast as you can,” he said.
He left Sunday when Jackson sent him to the trainers after a Browns possession ended with 10:51 left in the first half and returned with 8:19 left in the third quarter. Kizer said he was fine when he returned.
He refused to use the migraines as any kind of excuse for his play -- publicly and privately.
"He gets it," Jackson said. "Taking responsibility for it. Knows that he needs to continue to work harder and better. Understands that in the National Football League that it is about accuracy, that you got to put it where you want to put it at all times, that the other team can’t touch your ball. Our margin for error is not very big, and I think we get that. So we got to be as close to perfect as we can be."
Kizer is ready to move forward.
“One of my poorer performances that I’ve ever had,” Kizer said. “I’m just going to try to use that as motivation going into this week to make sure that I can prove to my teammates and prove to the Cleveland fans, prove to this organization the type of guy that I actually am.”
BALTIMORE -- The Cleveland Browns’ 0-2 start is not a shock, given where the team is and the opponents they've faced.
The NFL gave the Browns the two best teams in the AFC North to open the season, two teams that presented unique challenges to a rookie quarterback.
Things change starting Sunday, though, as the Browns travel to take on the 0-2 Indianapolis Colts. Following that, the Browns face the Cincinnati Bengals and the New York Jets, both also winless. The Jets have given up 66 points, the Bengals have scored nine and the Colts have been outscored 62-22 in two games. These three teams have the three largest negative point differentials in the AFC.
If ever the time has arrived to show that the Browns are an improved and growing roster, this is it.
Losing to winless and struggling teams -- that’s another thing entirely.
Fans have been frustrated but patient since the Hue Jackson-Sashi Brown-Paul DePodesta era started. They lived through 1-15 and jammed FirstEnergy Stadium for the opener. They are excited about DeShone Kizer and the young defensive players (though they have yet to see Myles Garrett).
In the opener, Kizer provided some hope and brought generally favorable reviews.
In the second game, though, he was solely responsible for four turnovers in a game in which it was tough to find a positive. He even left the game for about one quarter with a migraine that he said he treated with a series of medications.
The Browns did not act like this migraine issue would linger, but they will be dealing with injuries to linebacker Jamie Collins (concussion) and receiver Corey Coleman (hand). The team is not specifying Coleman’s injury, but it’s serious enough that cleveland.com reported the team believes Coleman has a broken hand for the second consecutive season.
That situation will play out.
What won’t play out is fans’ patience. In this particular rebuild, the Browns promised a commitment to youth and the draft. This preseason, they also promised they had an improved roster. Eight days ago, Jackson ticked down the reasons for the expected improvement -- starting with the defense he called “legit” and going through a running game he said would be successful.
With those foundations, Jackson said the Browns had reason to believe.
But there is still a level of frustration with losing, and Jackson has to be carrying that internally. His Browns teams have lost 17 of their 18 games.
At some point, wins must follow, not only to validate what’s being done but to engender some true hope aside from words and promises. Nobody expects this young Browns team to challenge the New England Patriots, but nobody expects them not to win any games either.
No doubt the Colts, Bengals and Jets will look on the Browns as a chance for them to get a win. But if the Browns are ever going to get past this hump of losing, this three-week stretch is a big chance to right themselves.
Three wins in a row would be a dream.
Winning two of three would validate the optimism.
Winning one of three would lead to grimaces and teeth-gnashing.
But if the Browns lose all three, they could find a new level of ugliness and frustration from fans sick and tired of being sick and tired.
What did Joe Thomas have to say about being four snaps from 10,000 consecutive in his Pro Bowl career? Here's the Q&A on the topic with the Cleveland Browns' left tackle -- who has not missed a play since he was the third overall pick in the 2007 draft -- and the media on Thursday:
How does it hit you to be four snaps from 10,000 in a row?
Joe Thomas: "I don't really think about it too much. People have asked me more about it as I have gotten closer. It is hard to quantify. I don't know. It's kind of a weird thing to even think about."
Is there anything else in your life you have done or come close to doing 10,000 times?
Thomas: "That is a good question. I don't know. I'm sure there are plenty of boring things that I do, like maybe open car doors or something, but nothing as exciting as playing 10,000 snaps."
Have any of those snaps meant more than others because you were playing through an injury?
Thomas: "The only time that I really questioned if I could still play was against Pittsburgh in 2012 [in the season finale]. I tore my LCL [lateral collateral ligament], heard the pop and was in pain and had to really try to test it a little bit to see if I could continue to play. Other than that, it is just your garden-variety pain and anguish that you go through in certain games and with certain injuries, but I think that is probably the one that sticks out the most in my head as far as ones that were close to not knowing if I was going to be able to play."
Why was it important for you to play through those injuries even when the team wasn't winning?
Thomas: "I think it was just something that was ingrained in me when I was a little kid. It was just all about being out there to help your teammates and doing everything you can to help the team win, fighting through pain and adversity. I never really considered not going out there and giving my all because I always felt that the team and my teammates relied on me to be out there. No matter what the conditions were or what situation the team was in, I always felt that it was my job to be out there. Unless I absolutely couldn't do it, I was going to be out there for those guys."
Do you think about it?
Thomas: "I don't really think about it too much. I'm sure when my career is over and it's all said and done, maybe I'll have more time to reflect back on those things. Right now it's sort of a novelty thing that people talk to me about. It's difficult for me to really think about it and kind of grasp."
Your teammates say they're glad they're a small part of this. Have they said that to you?
Thomas: "Nobody's really said anything to me like that. It think if they got too serious with me I would probably try to make a joke to defuse the tension in the room. Because I don't like talking about it too much. That's cool if people think that."
Do you feel like you are setting the tone for other guys to be out there in the same way you have been.
Thomas: "I hope I can be a good example for my teammates and maybe inspire them to be better than they expect from even themselves in the face of difficulty or injury or difficult times. Which from time to time you will face in the NFL. It's easy to fold up the tent, pack in your stuff and go home when you're not having a winning season or when you're not having a great game and you're losing by a lot. But hopefully I'm maybe a small inspiration for those guys that, even though maybe it doesn't matter on the scoreboard or the record sheet, every play really does matter in the NFL for somebody out there because somebody's playing for their job, whether it be offensive line or the other guys in the offense or the coaches. It means something to somebody. If you can be out there to help your teammates, to do it for yourself, your teammates, you should be out there."
Given your approach, is it getting harder as the years go on to understand when guys take themselves out of games?
Thomas: "Yeah, throughout my career there have been instances where guys just take themselves out because they don't feel good. To that I say I hardly ever feel good. But it's my job to go out there and play. So unless you actually can't do it, or unless the guy behind you is going to be able to do it better than you can due to your situation, I think you should be out there playing. So it does get frustrating at times throughout my career seeing guys occasionally not playing because they didn't feel good. I'm not the only guy that's ever played with an injury, but as an offensive lineman I'd say more O-linemen than any other position have to play with injuries because our position doesn't rely on being fast, so having injuries doesn't necessarily hurt our play as much as it would [others]. If you're a receiver and you can't run full speed, well, you can't really play. Everyone's going to cover you like a blanket. But as a lineman you don't really have to move that quickly. You just got to be able to use the technique and have strength enough to get out there and do it."
Does your family look on this game as special?
Thomas: "I don't even know if they know that I'm close to 10,000, to be honest. I'm not sure if my family knows I'm still in the NFL after 11 years. They've just kind of given up on me. And I'm like, yeah, I'm still playing, I guess. I don't know. I'm not sure."
How badly would you like to get a postseason snap?
Thomas: "Well, that would mean everything, I think. Playing for 11 years the goal has always been to get to the playoffs. Have a home playoff game in FirstEnergy Stadium -- I think that experience and that feeling would be unlike any other in my athletic career. And I think it would be something that I would easily consider the highlight of my NFL career."
Do you plan on playing until that happens?
Thomas: "Well, I wouldn't guarantee it, but hopefully we can do it this year."
Have you given any thought to this being the football equivalent of Cal Ripken Jr. in baseball?
Thomas: "I haven't thought about that. I guess I'll leave that up to the columnists and beat writers out there to judge the equivalencies there. I guess I'm just a guy that tries to show up and do his job every day."
BEREA, Ohio -- Joe Thomas is not finished, mind you.
He may have a few thousand more snaps in his Hall of Fame body.
Thomas' fourth snap will be his 10,000th straight play on offense. The standout Browns left tackle has not missed a play since he was the third overall pick in the 2007 draft. Through losing and quarterback changes and more losing and more quarterback changes, Thomas has been the Browns' Gibraltar -- immense, solid and always there.
"I will now hold my breath 10,000 times," his wife, Annie, said this week.
In its essence, what Thomas has done is show up every day for work. Through sore throats, bad days, bad knees, headaches, not feeling well or not feeling into it, Thomas has come to work and done his job and done it well. He is recognized and respected, as Cal Ripken Jr. was when he set baseball's consecutive-games streak: Thomas works every day, and he works at a high level. As he said Thursday: "I guess I'm just a guy that tries to show up and do his job every day."
"It's still insane to me that after all of these years he's never missed a snap," Annie Thomas said. "It's just a testament to the man he is: reliable, dedicated, and mentally and physically tough."
She puts it as well as anyone, probably because she knows him as well as anyone. But this week a variety of other people who know Thomas spoke about his career, which has seen him go to the Pro Bowl in each of his first 10 seasons while playing for a team that has had one winning season and gone 48-113 since he was drafted. Teammates, former teammates, coaches, former coaches … all used the same superlatives. But when some of the greats of the game heard of the upcoming 10,000th snap, they were stopped cold.
"Damn," Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "That is legit. That is pretty amazing, especially in this league. It is a physical league for his position. That is a pretty awesome milestone, accomplishment."
"It's incredible," New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said. "For him to do it, he's obviously had a lot of regimes and he's been such a remarkable player. A consistent elite performer. He's been to so many Pro Bowls, came out really highly touted, and he's just played at a Pro Bowl level almost every single year. That's a tough position to play all those snaps. But he does it. It's really a credit to him."
One man provided the exception to the thinking: Arizona Cardinals tight ends coach Steve Heiden, who was a teammate of Thomas when he was a rookie.
"It doesn't surprise me at all; I think he was probably the most prepared player I've seen come in as a rookie," Heiden said.
LeCharles Bentley, the former Browns and Saints center, called Thomas "a football unicorn." (Rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer, the Browns' starter, used the same word.)
Bentley knows offensive linemen. He runs an academy in Phoenix where he scouts and trains and develops them. At one point Bentley was headed toward being Thomas' teammate, but he ruptured his patella tendon on the first day of training camp in 2006. The injury showed the vagaries of NFL life, and what Thomas has avoided.
Bentley said there's nobody like Thomas and it's unfair to compare him to other tackles because Thomas does things no other tackle can do. He's not the biggest or the strongest or the fastest, but he might be the smartest and wisest. He plays angles and tendencies, using preparation and smarts along with athletic ability.
Thomas talked a few years ago about always knowing the opposing player's signature move. He said at a key point in the game, the opponent will go to that move, and if Thomas is prepared he can stop it. Against Dwight Freeney, Thomas always knew the spin move would arise on a key play.
Last season against San Diego, Thomas faced rookie Joey Bosa, who was a bit of a sensation. Bosa likes to drive upfield and then reverse to get the tackle off balance. When he tried it against Thomas, the veteran was waiting for Bosa like it was a receiving line.
"Joe has reached an all-time level of amazing that's yet to be identified," Bentley said.
I guess I'm just a guy that tries to show up and do his job every day.
- Joe Thomas on his longevity in the NFL
When Trent Dilfer played quarterback for the Browns in 2005, he was preparing to face Brett Favre in Green Bay. Dilfer was asked about Favre's consecutive-games streak, which ended at 297. Dilfer called it the greatest achievement in pro sports.
Told this week about Thomas' streak, he said there might be another "greatest" -- though out of fairness to both players, he would not pick one over the other.
"I'm very rarely at a loss for words, as you know," Dilfer said. "But I'm at a loss for words."
Dilfer said the first challenge for Thomas was being good enough to start as a rookie. The second was starting immediately at left tackle, one of the most important positions on a team.
"It's not like you're starting at receiver, where you just run a couple routes and run fast," Dilfer said. "You gotta be a graduate student and a great athlete to start at left tackle from day one."
After Bentley was injured, the Browns acquired Hank Fraley. He wound up being Thomas' teammate from 2007-09 and remains in touch with Thomas today.
"I've got four boys myself, and a daughter," Fraley said. "Hopefully my boys and my daughter look up to me and I will be their role model. But they're like, 'Dad, I really like this Joe Thomas guy.'
"I can't fault them."
Fraley now is the offensive line coach at UCLA, where he makes a point to talk to his players about Thomas.
"I'm not sure who coached him at Wisconsin, but he came in and took notes every day, and he still does it," Fraley said. "He's so detailed. He has a plan of attack. I was taught how to take notes when I got to the pros by guys like Dermontti Dawson, Jon Runyan, players like that. To see Joe Thomas come in as a rookie already doing it, it's hard to fathom sometimes.
"When I teach these guys, I tell them, 'Hey, this guy is considered one of the best left tackles ever in the game. And look what he does.'"
"We didn't play together, but in high school when I was first trying to decide what I was going to do and went and told my head coach that I wanted to play Division I football, he looked up some of Joe's stuff and said, 'This is a guy you want to look at,'" Frederick said. "He was a multisport athlete in high school, smart guy, top of his class, and then went to Wisconsin and he was successful there.
"So I started watching him at that point and just tried to follow that. Actually, that's why I wore 72 in high school. He wore 72 at Wisconsin and wears 73 now. That's why I wore 72 through high school and in college, and now I've continued to keep it."
Kizer said he used Thomas' notebook this week as he prepares for the Ravens. Kizer has started keeping a notebook of his own, but he referred to Thomas' for Baltimore's tendencies and defenses. Thomas has kept notes meticulously throughout his career.
"I'm blown away by the physical toughness and the mental toughness, because he's never been in a winning situation," said quarterback Josh McCown, a teammate in 2015 and '16. "When you get to spend time with him, and when you see him, you step back and go, 'Man, he's been in some tough seasons and he's kept this kind of attitude. Are you kidding me?' It's unbelievable.
"He's one of my favorite guys I've ever played with because of his character and the kind of guy he is. It's awesome. The guys I played with who were sitting in that room are better because of him."
"He's just a really warm, lighthearted guy who has a lot of energy, who takes his job very seriously," said Falcons center Alex Mack, another good friend of Thomas whose career started in Cleveland.
Thomas never seems down. He loves practical jokes, and his Twitter account this summer became something of a sensation. For years, the Thomases held a Halloween party at their home, and his costumes were legendary. His favorite: When he and Annie both dressed as a version of cousin Eddie from "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation," his attire came with slicked-back hair, white pants and white shoes.
He has been an NFL finalist for the Walter Payton Award, and he hosts a show on the team's official website, clevelandbrowns.com, called "The Joe Thomas Hour: The Best Two Minutes of Your Life." In that "hour," Thomas conducts quirky interviews, and any question can be asked.
"He was always good at the ugly sweater parties, too," Fraley said.
People who know him say Thomas' demeanor rarely changes. He's intensely proud of being a father to his three children. At home, he has a 900-square-foot vegetable garden -- he loves the Cajun bell pepper -- and trudges through the dirt in a wide-brimmed straw hat.
Thomas also was one of the more impressive performers in a Word of the Day contest the offensive line used to have when the line included Mack and Mitchell Schwartz.
Schwartz, now with the Kansas City Chiefs, came up with the idea to have one lineman each day present the group with a new word during warm-ups. The linemen then had to define it and use it in a sentence.
"After practice we'd write the word on the board in the meeting room, and by the end of the year you'd have a whiteboard full of interesting words," Schwartz said.
"Joe's a big wordsmith."
In 2015, Thomas revealed that he has played through three torn MCLs and two high ankle sprains. One of the knee injuries would have sidelined him, but it happened in the 2012 season finale, so Thomas just played through it.
"One game he just suddenly had an elbow brace on," Fraley said. "I asked him, 'What did you do?' He just said, 'Aww, I'll be fine.'"
"I know there's been times he's been rolled up, piles fall on his legs and stuff," said Hall of Fame offensive lineman Bruce Matthews, who started 293 games in a 19-year career. "To avoid that, it's not anything that he's done. He's just been blessed with a great body that can take the punishment."
Pro Football Focus named Thomas the best left tackle on the field in Week 1 this season. The past four years, the analytics site has listed Thomas sixth, first, second and first among the league's tackles.
He has lined up to protect 19 starting quarterbacks and has been to the Pro Bowl in each of his first 10 seasons -- something only Hall of Famers Merlin Olsen (14), Mel Renfro (10), Barry Sanders (10) and Lawrence Taylor (10) have done before him.
The number the Browns use for Thomas' total snaps comes from the Browns' game books that are submitted to -- and verified by -- the league. Some sites and analytics pages have quibbled that Thomas was off the field for some fake punts, but the league considers those plays special-teams plays, not offensive ones.
According to the Browns, Thomas is at 9,996, on the cusp of 10,000.
"He doesn't take any of those 10,000 for granted," Annie Thomas said.
ESPN NFL Nation reporters Jamison Hensley, Mike Reiss, Josh Weinfuss, Todd Archer, Mike Wells, Jeremy Fowler, Courtney Cronin, Rich Cimini, Vaughn McClure, Adam Teicher, Mike Triplett, Alden Gonzalez and Jeff Legwold contributed to this report.
BEREA, Ohio -- Every day DeShone Kizer is on the field or does an interview, he shows in ways large and small that he simply “gets it” about the responsibilities of being an NFL quarterback.
Monday, Kizer took responsibility for the bulk of his seven sacks in the Cleveland Browns’ season-opening loss to Pittsburgh, saying it was his fault and he has to get better fast -- like by this weekend.
Wednesday, Kizer talked about facing the Ravens in Baltimore on Sunday. In their opener, the Ravens shut out the Bengals on the road, intercepting Andy Dalton four times and sacking him five times.
How do the Browns counter the Ravens, who many believe have a top-five defense?
“Figure out what they do,” Kizer said.
Kizer also talked about knowing the Ravens' personnel. When it comes to Terrell Suggs, he said he would turn to Joe Thomas, who has kept a voluminous notebook on the players and teams he has faced in his 10-plus seasons in the league.
“I will be able to sit down with him, hopefully after practice today, and really start looking at some of the details of how I can help him and help other guys internally with protections to make sure we have other guys helping him out, whether it is another running back or another hand from an offensive lineman,” Kizer said.
Kizer said that he also has started keeping his own notebook, with details on protections, coverages, plays, players and alignments. He wrote things down before the Steelers game, then updated it afterward.
“It is my job as a quarterback to create the same notebook for myself and understand how defensive coordinators want to play and what their tendencies are and obviously, then, individuals out there, how a corner reacts to certain things, how a defensive lineman likes to rush,” Kizer said.
He also detailed how he spent his first off day on Tuesday, which was part about work and part about keeping perspective in his work.
“Yeah, I got in [the facility] and I got a nice little start on Baltimore,” Kizer said. “I spent a little bit of time game planning myself, just getting ahead of the game as much as I can to prepare for the game plan I was given today.
“With a couple of the free hours I had, I was able to go over to University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital to spend some time there, reset my mind and get my mind back to some things that are going on off the field.”
Kizer's daily alarm goes off at 4:40 a.m., and he’s in the building by 5. Bedtime the night before? Between 8:45 and 9 p.m.
“I do my best work in the morning,” Kizer said.
Kizer is not the first person in the building, though.
“I can’t let him beat me in the building,” coach Hue Jackson said. “He’s here. [Quarterback] coach [David] Lee is here. We’re all here. This is part of the process for him.”
Kizer said the early arrival helps him “try to get ahead on things to make sure that I can go accurately help my team out.”
He was the same at Notre Dame, where he said he would get up at a similar hour to do homework. Often, Kizer said that work would take three or four hours. Now, playing football is his job.
“This young man is really coming on,” Jackson said. “He is getting better. I see him getting better in a lot of different areas, and that is what you look for.
“Now, he has to go play well, play well and consistently week in and week out and give this team a chance to win.”
“Holding on to the ball a little too much in the pocket,” Kizer said. “That doesn’t put my offensive line in the best position to hold off, and a lot of those sacks go on to me. I have to do my best to make the proper adjustments and make sure I move the ball to the checkdown when I need to.”
Kizer was sacked seven times by the Steelers. He said he has to get better in a hurry -- like by Sunday, when the Browns travel to Baltimore to face the Ravens, who sacked Andy Dalton five times and intercepted him four in their shutout win over the Bengals.
“It needs to happen fast,” Kizer said. “Obviously, in this last game, that changes the game. Those sacks are moving us out of field goal range. Those sacks are moving us to third-and-extra-long. It is my job to make sure that we at least throw the ball away and keep the ball where it is.”
In general, Kizer had a better-than-solid opener, completing 20 of 30 throws for 222 yards with one touchdown passing and one rushing. He did not fold when the Browns fell behind 7-0 early or when they were behind 21-10 late.
Kizer gave the Browns offense a different feel -- one that said as long as he stayed composed and in control, he would give Cleveland a chance. Kizer did just that.
But as he progresses early in his career, he will try to learn from every game and every snap. The clear takeaway was that the sacks were too frequent and hurt the offense. He admitted there were short checkdowns available on some of the sacks.
“When you have the ability to run with your legs and extend plays, you never feel as if you ever should be sacked,” Kizer said. “Right now, I am trying to do my best to continue to get that feel that you need in the pocket to understand when it is time to go down and when it is time to escape the pocket and throw it away, or to find someone who is in an underneath spot where I can drop the ball off or at least throw it at his feet so I am not taking sacks.”
Examining some of the sacks shows how much they hurt:
- On the game’s second drive (with Pittsburgh leading 7-0), Kizer was sacked on first down, which led to third-and-long and another sack, then a punt.
- On the first drive of the second half (with Pittsburgh up 14-7), Kizer was sacked on second-and-8, again leading to a punt.
- On the first possession of the fourth quarter (Pittsburgh up 21-10), he was sacked for a loss of 9 on first down. Kizer tried to throw his way out of it on second down, but Kenny Britt dropped the pass. It ended up being a three-and-out.
Pro Football Focus reports that on the sacks, Kizer held the ball an average of 4.4 seconds, which would have been the second-longest time to throw in the league in 2016. PFF reported that, including his scrambles, his average time in the pocket to throw was 3.05 seconds, the fourth-longest of the week.
Kizer was not sacked on his two touchdown drives, and on the second, he threw a short checkdown to Isaiah Crowell, who turned the short completion into an 11-yard gain and a first down.
“Repetition is the mother of learning,” coach Hue Jackson said. “Just keep doing it and do it better and keep getting better at it. And he will, there is no question.”
Kizer took accountability for other parts of the game, as well. He said his deep throw to Kasen Williams down the sideline in the first half went out of bounds because he didn’t throw it well.
“I put the ball 2 yards inside and he walks into the end zone,” Kizer said.
There were good plays. Plenty of them. Jackson mentioned a 29-yard pass to Ricardo Louis that set up the second touchdown, calling it “outstanding.” He also mentioned some checkdowns and short throws that resulted from Kizer's going through two or three receivers to find the right one.
“It shows me he is not just playing pick a guy and throw the ball to him,” Jackson said. “He is working within our system, within our progressions and getting the ball to the right people.”
“Quite frankly,” Kizer said, “we are in a position now where I am just trying to learn from my mistakes more than being excited about all of the good ones. There is a lot of room for improvement. In that game, I think, were some things to key in on for this week. Obviously, a big thing we are focusing on is making sure that I’m getting rid of the ball as fast as I possibly can and trying to continue to have some drives that keep our defense off of the field.”
Head coach Hue Jackson even quipped that “we [weren’t] going to go 16-0.”
Given that, the 21-18 loss means the Browns won’t have to face those undefeated-season questions as they continue on.
Jackson did, though, provide some very clear and tangible reasons why he feels better about the 2017 Browns, and why he feels the team can turn close losses like Sunday’s into wins.
Among his statements:
-- “I think our defense is a legit defense.”
It looked like one on Sunday, and did so without first-overall pick Myles Garrett. The Browns gave up 290 total yards and only 35 yards rushing -- 2.1 yards per carry. The defense held the Steelers to 38 percent on third down and overall played aggressively and actively. Seven of the Steelers’ points came on special teams. The Browns had no answer for Antonio Brown (182 yards receiving), but they are certainly not the first team to struggle to stop him. In this game, the defense built on the success it had in the preseason.
-- “I think there is going to be a running game as we go. Today wasn’t as good as I would like us to run the football.”
Isaiah Crowell had 33 yards on 17 carries, and the Browns averaged just 2.3 yards per carry. That was not good enough. But Jackson built the team to win by running and playing defense, and he believes a rebuilt offensive line can help Crowell be successful. Though there were reasons for not running more Sunday -- such as falling behind -- Jackson needs to commit to the run and stick with it if he truly wants to rely on it. At times it seems like Jackson just can't resist throwing the ball down the field. He has a running back he can win with; he just needs to commit to it.
-- “I think we have the ability to throw the ball with this quarterback. I think he can also make some plays in a lot of different ways. We just have to keep growing on our side of the ball.”
DeShone Kizer will need more help, and he'll need to not take seven sacks. But his debut was given positive marks, as he did little to dispel belief that he can become a good quarterback. He needs to learn from his negative plays on Sunday, but he’s accountable and competitive and seems determined to grow, just as Jackson is determined to help him grow, saying the two are “joined at the hip.”
-- “We just lost to [a team] everybody has favored in the division, 21-18. We are going to have some games like that. We have to find a way to score more points, and we have to find a way to stop teams better and be better on special teams, but I feel good about today.”
That is where Jackson pushed the envelope of the “moral victory,” feeling good about only losing by three. But his point was right. In many years past, a blocked punt for a touchdown on the opening drive would have turned quickly from 7-0 to 27-0. And in many years past, the Steelers pulling ahead 21-10 in the second half would have led to a 31-10 final. Neither happened, which is a tangible improvement.
Jackson concluded his statement this way:
“It is not a moral victory -- I’m not saying that -- but I watched our football team fight and play. There is grit, there is toughness, and there are things that we have talked about that I have seen and that I needed to see as a head coach from the beginning, and it has shown itself. Now, we just have to take it to another level.”
Jackson, then Oakland’s coach, took Campbell immediately to a restaurant so the two could share some plain talk.
“He challenged me about what I was walking into,” Campbell said. He recalled Jackson being “blunt” and “straight-up” with “no in-between.”
The more Cambpell talked about Jackson, the more the word “challenge” was used. The Browns coach has an easygoing, happy-go-lucky demeanor, but it became clear the coach is anything but easygoing when he works.
“That’s the one thing he’ll really do with Kizer -- he’ll challenge him: Come out of your comfort zone,” Campbell said. “Yes you have ability, yes you have skill, but it’s different at this level.”
Campbell spoke in the context of the coach-quarterback relationship, which almost every NFL insider considers vital for success. As Campbell spoke, he ticked down the list of coaches and quarterbacks he said are “tied at the hip,” from Drew Brees and Sean Payton in New Orleans to Tom Brady and Bill Belichick in New England to even Carson Wentz and Doug Pederson in Philadelphia.
Jackson has admitted he was hired to find and develop the Browns’ long-missing franchise quarterback. He has cast his lot with Kizer, a rookie from Notre Dame and only the second rookie since 1999 to start for the Browns in the opener. The coach has been open about saying he believes he has found the guy -- to the point he responded with a single word when asked if he had any trepidation about going with Kizer: “Why?”
“The head coach-quarterback deal is very important, especially when the head coach is the offensive coordinator as well [which Jackson is],” Campbell said. “If he’s an offense-minded coach, he’s in your room all the time. He’s with the offensive team. So you’re hearing the same voice pretty much 95 percent of the time. There’s no guessing on what the head coach wants from you. You already know. Because you’re around him more than anybody else in the building.”
For the Browns, Jackson is one reason the optimism for the quarterback position is greater than it has been in the past. He has had success as a quarterback coach for Joe Flacco, as a head coach with Campbell and as an offensive coordinator with the Bengals. The other reason for excitement is Kizer himself. He brings professionalism that combines with natural arm strength, size and ability, and that combination made the decision to turn to him as a rookie feel different than past Browns experiments at the position.
“If ever there was a great team of rookie quarterback and coach, it would be DeShone and Hue,” Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas said. “I think DeShone really embodies what a professional is. Even as a rookie, he understands how to work, how to study the game. He understands the commitment it takes to be a starting quarterback, so if ever there was a great combination for a rookie quarterback and coach, it would be Hue and DeShone.”
Those who have played for Jackson describe his style as a little bit friend, a lot prodder. Campbell’s success with Jackson got lost in an injury and trade while he was with the Raiders. He was on the verge of doing some very good things when he started for Jackson.
Campbell went 7-5 as a starter in 2010, and started the 2011 season 4-2. But he separated his shoulder in a game against the Browns and was lost for the season. That led the Raiders to trade for Carson Palmer and, as Campbell said, “flipped [his] career upside down.” Campbell wound up spending time as a backup for the Bears, Browns and Bengals -- where Jackson was offensive coordinator -- before he retired after the 2014 season.
“I would’ve really liked to have seen what we could have kept doing together,” Campbell said.
Campbell described Jackson as detail oriented and supportive, but always prodding and challenging. He mentioned some of the same things about competitiveness that new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has mentioned about working with Jackson.
“I can tell you which offensive coaches write everything on a chart and call the game on a chart,” Williams said when he was hired, “and I can tell you which offensive coaches lay it down and say, ‘Let's go -- come get some.’
“And Hue’s one of them.”
“He challenged you in all kinds of angles,” Campbell said. “Challenged you in practice. He challenged you to go out and have a strong day. Be a big leader. He always challenged you to get off to a fast start early in games. The one thing that he does is he makes you prepare really well. Go through a lot of film, go through a lot of studying. He’s very detail oriented in what he wants out of his offense and what he wants out of each play.
“He kind of takes out all the guessing, and that was a big thing for me.”
“As a coach Hue is not a happy-go-lucky guy at all,” former Browns and Bengals receiver Andrew Hawkins said. “Not even a little bit. I don’t know anybody who would describe him that way as a coach. There is zero gray area with the guy. You understand where you need to improve immediately, and it’s the same whether you’re the No. 1 quarterback or the No. 53 guy. You know where you stand.
“It never comes from a place where it pisses you off because of the person Hue is. You know why he’s doing it, and it’s not done in a way that makes you mad. It’s done in a constructive way.”
Campbell said Jackson would give spot tests. He would walk up to the defensive line in practice and taunt “third-and-2 and you haven’t stopped anybody all day.” He benched Campbell in his first start in Oakland, then went back to him in Week 2.
“We would go to a restaurant or something and he would just be honest,” Campbell said. “He would be 100 percent honest. ‘I need you to do this a little more or this a little better.’ Or he’d be like, ‘Hey you’re good but I need you to do this.’
“He was from L.A.; he was going to give it to you straight up and he was going to tell you, ‘Hey, this is what I'm looking for, this is what I want, this is what I like and this is what I don’t like.’ It was up to me how I was going to respond and how I was going to accept it.”
In Cincinnati in 2014, Campbell saw Jackson take the same approach with every member of the offense.
“He challenged A.J. Green like that. And A.J. Green, he was already a Pro Bowl wide receiver,” Campbell said. “That’s the thing that guys like Hue the most about. He wasn't afraid to challenge anybody on the team.”
Andy Dalton was another player under Jackson’s watch.
“Andy wasn’t a big talker,” Campbell said. “He challenged Andy to become a big talker, to become more of a leader. He challenged Andy to become a little bit tougher in games. He challenged him on decision-making. He challenged him when it came to big games.”
Jackson also stood by Dalton after his worst game. When Dalton had a 2.0 rating in a Thursday night loss to the Browns, the next day Jackson said he was not there to abandon a player who struggled but to help him work through it and get better.
“He tries to instill confidence in you,” Dalton said. “And he wants you to be at your best. He tries to pump you up as much as he can, and he lets you know that’s not the normal way you usually play and that you’re going to get [better] at it next week. I was thankful for Hue during his time here. He was great at that.”
In his two seasons with Jackson as his coordinator, Dalton won 20 games and threw 44 touchdowns, compared with 24 interceptions. His rating from 2014 to 2015 improved from 83.5 to 106.2.
“At first it was kind of tough for Andy,” Campbell said. “He was a young guy who already had a lot of success. It was kind of tough, but then once Andy started catching on to it, his mentality got stronger and he started accepting the challenge. His game really took off to another level.”
“If you get better, we get better,” Hawkins said. “He has a job to do and that’s to turn a program into a winning one. He’s not there to be your best friend. He’s a great guy and will help you in any way he can, but his No. 1 goal is to turn around that organization. Everything you do is with that goal in mind.”
Jackson said he “absolutely” will challenge Kizer the same way he would challenge a veteran.
“He is a starting quarterback in the National Football League, whether he is young, old or whatever, so he has to go play and he knows that,” Jackson said.
Jackson will get angry during a game, and he will express it. But Campbell said that, in the big picture, Jackson made him better as a quarterback.
“The one thing he’s going to emphasize with Kizer is protect the football,” Campbell said. “Protect the football at all costs. If something’s not there, don’t force it. You’re going to make some mistakes. Keep moving forward. We’ll talk about it after the game, go over it. But at all costs protect the football. That’s going to be his No. 1 thing going into this week ahead that he’ll talk to him about.”
In preseason, Jackson intentionally called a pass with Kizer dropping back into the end zone against Tampa Bay. He saw no one open and threw the ball away, which Jackson said was “awesome.”
HBO’s "Hard Knocks" cameras caught Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston giving Kizer similar advice in the preseason.
“Patience is the easiest way,” Winston told Kizer. “Take my word because I’m a risk-taker. Have patience. Listen to me because they ain’t going to tell you that.”
Kizer called Winston’s advice after that game “very accurate,” but that was preseason. The Steelers will present a whole new level of challenge for two reasons: They’re the Steelers, and it’s the regular season, not practice games.
“Hue’s going to have a limited game plan for him to try to get him off to a good start,” Campbell said. “Get some completions under his belt. Try to keep him not getting overwhelmed. He’s not the type of person who’s going to put a whole bunch of plays in in one week. You pretty much know what you’re going to get when the game comes.”
“Soak up all the information,” he said. “Go out and play. Play to have fun. Play freely. Just be very detailed. Just pay attention to what he asks you in the meeting room. If there’s anything you ever want to know, just ask him. Because he’s going to give you a one-direction answer. There’s not going to be any guessing; it’s going to be very, very straightforward.
“Sometimes it may not be always what you want to hear. But you know you’re going to get a straightforward answer.”
ESPN's Katherine Terrell contributed to this article.
BEREA, Ohio -- Wednesday was another one of those days that cause Cleveland Browns fans to bang their foreheads against the desk.
Both came across the same way they’ve been all training camp -- respectful, humble, driven, motivated and eager to get into their first NFL game. They left the distinct feeling and impression that the Browns and their fans had good reason to believe these two would be key pieces of the foundation, and better reason to be excited about seeing them on Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Then came practice, and a player rolled into Garrett’s lower leg.
On Thursday morning, the team said Garrett has a high ankle sprain. He will miss at least two weeks and be re-evaluated.
Here is a non-literal translation of that assessment: For crying out loud, Garrett has a stinking high ankle sprain and we pray he heals quickly but we really don’t know so we’ll shut him down for two weeks and take another look at it, but the whole stinking world knows usually this kind of injury is several weeks and man does this stink so excuse me while I go back to banging my head against this desk.
It’s the second year in a row that the Browns lost their highest draft pick to injury. In practice. Last season it was receiver Corey Coleman, who broke his hand. This season, it’s Garrett.
This all comes on the heels of Phil Savage banning “woe is me” when Kellen Winslow missed a season after hurting his knee when he crashed his motorcycle. Winslow was never the same after the injury.
Another first overall pick, Courtney Brown, dealt with injury after injury.
A year ago, coach Hue Jackson committed an entire offseason and preseason to getting Robert Griffin III ready to play quarterback. He lasted one game -- and got hurt trying to run out of bounds to avoid a hit.
Josh McCown was hurt each of the past two seasons, the first time when he helicoptered into the end zone at the end of an excellent game-opening drive, and fumbled. Garrett hurt his foot in minicamp before hurting his ankle Wednesday. A hit on Colt McCoy that nobody on the Browns sideline saw changed the NFL’s concussion protocols. Go back to 2000 and Tim Couch, another first overall pick, broke his thumb in practice when his hand hit a defensive player’s helmet. Kelly Holcomb had (in Butch Davis' words) the “teeny tiny break in a non-weight-bearing bone,” aka a broken leg. That was not the original “teeny tiny break” though; cornerback Daylon McCutcheon had surgery and pins in a thumb and a cast out to his waist after incurring a “teeny tiny” break in his thumb.
Now Garrett, a player who oozes professionalism and had his teammates raving about him, will miss the opener and the second week against the Baltimore Ravens, and perhaps more. (Garrett could come back quickly. He could be the guy who does not miss much time. If he misses more time, he could have the proverbial “strong second half.” But this injury can be problematic, so time will tell.
Things happen in the NFL. It’s a physical, violent game that leads to ligaments tearing and bones breaking. When Garrett returns, he will have the same traits he has now. The team goes on, and Jackson and the team will try every bit as hard to win Sunday without Garrett as they would have tried to win with him.
But for Garrett's injury to occur the week before the opener makes it seem like someone somewhere with some special power has a Browns doll filled with pins and interchangeable jerseys and a sick smile on his or her face. Would it have been too much to ask to see him play in the opener? At home?
The Rams once burned sage at the team facility and stadium in St. Louis to eliminate bad luck, and won a Super Bowl that season. Maybe the Browns should hire an herbalist.
It would be easy to be snarky and say this is so Browns, but it’s just not appropriate.
This much bad luck with this many key players just seems cruel.
BEREA, Ohio -- The Cleveland Browns promise they are about winning in 2017.
But as the season opener approaches, the Browns are holding a quarterback tryout and working three new receivers into their team.
This isn't the way most teams spend the week before the season opener.
Add everything up and it might just indicate that 2017 is mainly about development. The Browns follow a one-win season when they were one of the youngest teams in the league by again being the youngest team in the league -- average age 25.0, according to Elias.
"This is always about winning," coach Hue Jackson said Monday. "I don't know any other way to do it. I think our players see it that way, too. We come out here every day and go into these meetings with one thing in mind: Let's win and let's find a way to win. That is not going to change.
"I understand where you are coming from and what it looks like, but I think every day everything we do is built toward winning."
It's no secret the Browns are emphasizing a long-term build around young players, most acquired in the draft. A veteran on the roster might stand in the way of a young player who will be part of planned future success that is a year or two away.
It can get jarring, though, and almost push extremes. When a team pushes draft picks into future draft picks, when it year after year releases veterans and when it pushes salary-cap room forward, the implication is development takes precedence. A roster can never win until said roster is whole; the Browns added five players after the final cuts, after spending an offseason putting together a roster.
"I don't think that they have any other agenda," Jackson said of the front office. "I know sometimes when you look at transactions and all those things ... But I think there is a plan and a purpose to what we are doing and I think we are getting there."
Neither Greco nor Haden would turn the Browns from a one-win team to a 15-win team.
But their teammates who were made available to the media on Monday felt the sting of their loss.
Joel Bitonio said losing Greco was lousy, though he did not use that exact word.
Cornerback Jamar Taylor called losing Haden "crazy, to say the least."
"I think the whole building was surprised," cornerback Briean Boddy-Calhoun said.( Backup offensive linemen over age 30 are not common, but Bitonio said Greco still can play. Can Haden?
"Definitely he can play," Taylor said. "The guy has crazy feet. He's like a rabbit out there. He's so quick, smart. He's seen a lot of things. He's healthy now so it's way different watching him last year fight through groin injuries. Joe-Joe definitely can still play this game."
It's not surprising that a player would back a teammate and friend, but the feeling about the two veterans let go is shared. Players acknowledged the NFL is a business, and the Browns have released a few veterans the past couple years who did not catch on with new teams -- among them tight end Gary Barnidge, safety Donte Whitner, receiver Brian Hartline and quarterback Robert Griffin III. But they also have let players go who still play, including tackle Mitch Schwartz and safety Tashaun Gipson.
The roster has five linebackers and, in an age of four- and five-wide-receiver groupings, four cornerbacks; the fourth was claimed on waivers on Sunday. The starting quarterback is a rookie with promise who has the trust of his coach. But the four combined have eight NFL starts, no wins and two years of experience. Jackson said the team will take a look at Josh Woodrum this week, then decide who backs up DeShone Kizer. Whether it's Woodrum, Cody Kessler or Kevin Hogan, Jackson said the decision will be firm.
"I think we are taking a look-see at a guy," Jackson said. "How it is all going to unfold, I don't know. We will get to that here, I am sure, by the end of the week."
Teams typically take a look-see at guys by bringing them to the practice squad for a few weeks. The Browns will be doing it while they prepare to win the opener. Jackson admitted that is "somewhat" unsettling.
"But the core starters are there," Jackson said. "The guys who start the game and who are going to play the game are there. It is not like somebody is going to come in from the outside and has to go play a huge role in a game this week."
"There is a plan and a purpose to what we are doing and I think we are getting there," Jackson said. "I think you guys can see the team has improved, and I think we will improve. We have to go do it when it counts in these games that are coming up now."
He insisted that the emphasis is and will be "about right now."
"This is where we are," Jackson said. "This is the situation we are in, and I think we are moving forward. I think things have gotten better, I really do. Like I said, I think you guys have seen some of the fruit of that.
"Now, is it happening as fast as maybe all of you want? Maybe not, but it is happening pretty fast in my mind, and we just have to continue to stick to it and get the rewards out of it that we know we can."
A somewhat exasperated Brian Kelly emphasized (again) that his pre-draft comments about DeShone Kizer were positive and not solely that Kizer should stay another season at Notre Dame.
Speaking on a Sunday conference call the day after the Irish’s opening-game win over Temple, Kelly said he’s “thrilled” that Kizer will start at quarterback for the Cleveland Browns and the Notre Dame coach believes Kizer has “what it takes to persevere” as a rookie going through the growing pains of NFL life.
“One of the things that I said was he’s got outstanding character and he’s got great traits,” Kelly said. “You’re not going to have to worry about any of those things. I think he’s got what it takes to persevere and fight through adversity.
“This isn’t a short-term solution here. He’s here for the long haul.”
Kizer will be the second rookie since 1999 (after Brandon Weeden) to start the Browns opener, and the 27th different Browns starting quarterback in that time. Kizer beat out Brock Osweiler and Cody Kessler to win the job. Browns coach Hue Jackson said the team will stand by Kizer, who was in South Bend for the Temple game, through any struggles.
“I saw him (Saturday),” Kelly said, “and I said, ‘Look, there’s gonna be some good days and bad days. Just keep fighting through it. On the other side of it there will be some great success.’ I think he’s definitely somebody that will be able to get through those tough times.”
As for his comments from several months ago, Kelly re-emphasized his key points.
“What I said was that he was the best quarterback in the draft and he has the biggest upside but would benefit from staying at Notre Dame,” Kelly said. “Once that decision was made, we were all for DeShone seeking out what his dream was, to play in the NFL. And that’s what he’s done. In a very short period of time he has gotten himself into a great position to be the starting quarterback.
“We’re thrilled for DeShone. We’re big fans. And hopefully he’s surrounded with guys that can get Cleveland back into championship caliber.”
The Cleveland Browns attacked the waiver wire on Sunday and added a quarterback and a receiver whose release caused angst with his former teammates.
The result was the addition of five players one day after the final cutdown, a changeover of just less than 10 percent of the roster.
Woodrum had good preseason games when playing against backups, but didn’t fare as well against starters. He did finish with numbers impressive enough to have Ravens fans hoping he’d be kept as the backup over Ryan Mallett: 25-of-36 for 321 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. But the Ravens saw Woodrum as more of a practice squad player.
The Browns are Woodrum’s fifth team since he joined the league as an undrafted free agent in 2016. He has spent time in one way or another with the New York Giants, Indianapolis Colts, Chicago Bears and Ravens.
For now, the Browns have four quarterbacks on the roster -- starter DeShone Kizer, Kessler, Kevin Hogan and Woodrum. Teams rarely keep four -- some keep two -- so it would make sense that after taking a look at Woodrum the Browns would then decide how they wish to proceed with the position.
Of the three who made the team coming out of preseason, Kessler would seem the most vulnerable. But the Browns have often shown that almost anything can happen with this position. As of now, they head to prepare for the opener with a rookie quarterback, three backups and three new receivers, none of whom have caught a pass from any of these quarterbacks (Sammie Coates was acquired via trade with the Pittsburgh Steelers on Saturday). And the new receivers figure to be an upgrade over the ones who spent preseason with the Browns.
The most prominent Sunday move -- if there is such a thing with guys who don’t make the original 53 -- was the addition of receiver Kasen Williams.
There is no explanation for this!
— Richard Sherman (@RSherman_25) September 2, 2017
Williams had been with the Seahawks for three seasons, and was one of the team’s better players in preseason -- with a 119-yard game and an NFC-high 208 yards total. He also played special teams.
Other players added included:
- Defensive back Michael Jordan, an undrafted free agent who had 20 tackles, two passes defensed and one fumble recovery in five games (two starts) with the Rams in 2016.
- Defensive lineman T.Y. McGill, who spent the past two seasons with the Colts. He has played in 25 games and originally was an undrafted free agent who signed with Seattle.
- Receiver Reggie Davis, who played three games in Seattle the past two seasons and who impressed more as a kick returner than receiver in preseason with Atlanta this season.
The Cleveland Browns trimmed their roster to the NFL-mandated 53 players on Saturday. Here’s a closer look at the final moves:
First win is the first: In going with rookie DeShone Kizer and second-year players Cody Kessler and Kevin Hogan, the Browns have committed to youth. None of the three quarterbacks on the roster has won an NFL game. That being said, it also wasn’t surprising that the Browns released Brock Osweiler. It just continued a bizarre saga for the former Texans and Broncos quarterback. In the end, the Browns did commit to paying $16 million -- Osweiler’s guaranteed salary -- to acquire Houston’s second-round pick in the 2018 draft. A draft-day trade also gave the Browns Houston’s first-round pick.
Receiver upgrade: The Browns took a shot at improving a shaky receiving group by trading with the Steelers for Sammie Coates, a big guy with speed who played with injuries a year ago and who has had trouble holding on to the ball. Coates was one of several young receivers whom Ben Roethlisberger challenged as not being up to the moment after the AFC Championship Game loss to the Patriots, but Coates was playing with groin and finger problems. In the offseason, he needed surgery to repair the groin issue and also had two knee scopes (it’s not known if it was the same issue twice). Coates told ESPN's Josina Anderson that he’s healthy. If he is, and his big-play ability returns, he would be a positive addition to a thin receiving group.
If you’re a draft pick, count your chickens: The Browns kept all 10 of their draft picks, including cornerback Howard Wilson, who will start the season on the physically unable to perform list. Eleven of 14 draftees from 2016 remain on the team. That’s 20 of 53 on the roster (plus Wilson) from the past two drafts when Sashi Brown, Andrew Berry and Paul DePodesta took over. The only three not on the roster form the past two drafts are CB Trey Caldwell, WR Jordan Payton and LB Scoobie Wright. Safety Kai Nacua was the only undrafted rookie to make the roster.
Trending young: Thirty-five of the Browns' 53 players on the roster are 24 or younger. Five are 21, five are 22, 14 are 23 and 11 are 24. The roster has three players over 30: CB Jason McCourty, punter Britton Colquitt and offensive tackle Joe Thomas.
Released (27): WR Mario Alford, WR Rasheed Bailey, LB B.J. Bello, WR Josh Boyce, DB Christian Bryant, DB Trey Caldwell, DL Xavier Cooper, OL Anthony Fabiano, LB Ladell Fleming, WR Randell Hall, DB J.D. Harmon, DB Alvin Hill, TE J.P. Holtz, TE Nate Iese, LB Deon King, WR Jordan Leslie, RB Terrence Magee, TE Taylor McNamara, WR Richard Mullaney, DB Najee Murray, OL Kitt O’Brien, LB Kenneth Ougbode, OK Cody Parkey, WR Jordan Payton, DL Karter Schult, DB Channon Stribling, DL Brandon Thompson.
Acquired (1): WR Sammie Coates in a trade with the Steelers.
Terminated vested veteran (4): WR Josh Boyce, OL John Greco, QB Brock Osweiler, DL Brandon Thompson.
Waived/injured (1): RB Brandon Wilds (injury designation).
Placed on PUP (1): CB Howard Wilson.