On Sunday, the Cleveland Browns fell to 0-4 on the season receiving an absolute thrashing from the Cincinnati Bengals. Now that DeShone Kizer is a quarter of the way through his rookie season, there can be some made about his performance so far.
Since the 2015 NFL Draft, there have been ten quarterbacks selected that have made at least four starts (even though Deshaun Watson has only made three starts this season, he will be included in these comparisons).
These quarterbacks are DeShone Kizer, Deshaun Watson, Carson Wentz, Jared Goff, Cody Kessler, Jacoby Brissett, Dak Prescott, Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota and Trevor Siemian.
The one stat when comparing these quarterbacks that sticks out the most is the completion percentage. So far this season, Kizer is 73 of 142 for a 51.4% completion percentage.
— Anthony Joki (@AnthonyJoki) October 3, 2017
There have been many factors contributing to this.
The biggest factor to this completion percentage are the amount of drops that the Browns’ receivers have had. According to NBC Sports Statistics, the Browns have seven drops so far this season. It would seem they have way more than that.
There have been countless other passes that should have been caught. There have also been passes that have been Kizer’s fault.
Kenny Britt has obviously struggled this season. He has been targeted 23 times this season and only has eight receptions so far, a reception/target percentage of only 34.8%. On Sunday, a pass was deflected right off of his hands and was intercepted. He was met with a chorus of boos quite often.
But Britt isn’t the only problem. Rashard Higgins, who has been targeted the third most, has a reception/target percentage of just 42.9%. In fact, the only receiver with a reception percentage of over 50% is Jordan Leslie who has one catch on one target.
Duke Johnson is by far the best with a reception percentage of 71.4%, which includes bringing in nine of ten passes on Sunday. David Njoku has been reliable as well, he is sitting at 75%.
So among all of these quarterbacks, Kizer ranks dead last in his first four games. Jameis Winston was second-worst with 54.9%.
Many thought that Kizer should have sat out this year to learn and get better. In his place, Cody Kessler probably would be starting.
Kessler is also on this list of quarterbacks we are comparing Kizer to.
DeShone Kizer – 51.4% Completion, 764 Yards, 3 TDs, 8 INTs and 11 sacks
Cody Kessler – 65.5% Completion, 865 Yards, 4 TDs, 1 INT and 10 sacks
While the yards, touchdowns and sacks are comparable, the completion percentage and turnovers are not.
In his first four career starts, Kessler did a much better job of taking care of the football. But where it matters the most, the win-loss column, they are both the same at 0-4.
Jared Goff was also 0-4 in his first four starts in the NFL.
So what can explain the poor start of these three quarterbacks? It’s something that they don’t even control. It is from a lack of a running game.
If you take away Kizer’s 97 yards on the ground, the Browns only have 209 rushing yards in the first four games. Ouch.
Last season, the Rams had only 311 yards on the ground in Goff’s first four games. They just could not get it going.
How about Kessler’s first four games? In those games, the Browns had 399 rushing yards. Things went downhill after his first two games when Joel Bitonio got hurt. There was a significant drop-off in yards after the injury.
Three of the ten quarterbacks had a winning record after four games: Carson Wentz (3-1), Dak Prescott (3-1) and Trevor Siemian (4-0). The running game for these quarterbacks helped them out significantly.
Dak Prescott had fellow rookie Ezekiel Elliot next to him to help take the pressure off. The 596 rushing yards the Cowboys had in those four games were the most of any team on this list.
Carson Wentz and the Philadelphia Eagles were third on this list with 474 yards on the ground.
The Broncos and Siemian are the outliers on this list with only 423 yards, but they had a Super Bowl caliber defense to compliment the offense.
Deshaun Watson has looked very impressive in his first three games. Why? Houston has 466 rushing yards in just those three games. They only need 10 yards to be second on the list.
If the Browns can get the running game going, it will help make things easier for Kizer. It will take time because of the new offensive line. It’s been widely noted that the Browns heavily invested in their offensive line last season. They signed Joel Bitonio to an extension, they signed JC Tretter and Kevin Zeitler in free agency and oh yeah they have Joe Thomas at left tackle.
As the season progresses, the offensive line is going to get better and hopefully the running game will too.