BEREA, Ohio — His head is swimming with new terms, plays and formations. He’s got endless film to watch, notes to take and there’s a playbook nearly as thick as any finance text he carried around at Notre Dame.
But fresh out of college, DeShone Kizer’s treating his job as an NFL quarterback as if he’s back on campus.
“I like to consider this like a calculus class,” the Browns rookie said. “You miss one day of a calculus class, you’re set back for the whole semester.”
So far, Kizer’s got an A.
The second-round draft pick has been making steady progress, so much in fact that he took snaps Tuesday and Wednesday with Cleveland’s starting offense at the team’s mandatory minicamp. Kizer may still be behind on the depth chart, but he appears to be closing the gap on veterans Brock Osweiler and Cody Kessler in a quarterback competition that will heat up next month in training camp.
Everything has been a learning experience for Kizer, starting with comments he made on draft day that his plans were to play as quickly as possible and “not to sit around and watch from the sideline.”
Some of that confidence has been knocked out of Kizer by Browns coach Hue Jackson, who made it clear to his QB from the outset that the first thing he needed to practice was patience.
“He laid it right to me,” Kizer said, “and he said ‘Look, this is not about you playing right away, this is not about a timetable on when you’re going to play, it’s about you just learning as much as you possibly can and becoming a better quarterback.’ And that’s been my mindset since the day he said that.
“The first time I stepped into this building as a Cleveland Brown, those were the messages that were passed across to me, and I’ll continue to believe that until they tell me otherwise.”
Although Kizer has been behind center more with the No. 1 offense than at any time previously, Jackson said nothing has changed with the Browns’ quarterback rotation. The order remains: Kessler, Osweiler and Kizer.
But this is Cleveland, where the line is always moving.
The Browns shuffle through quarterbacks quicker than any other team, starting 26 since 1999 and three last season.
Jackson is in no rush to name his starter, but would like to have one in place by the exhibition opener. At this point, he doesn’t think Kizer’s ready to compete for the starting job.
“Not yet,” he said. “I just think there is a lot of work to do and a lot of growing to do.”
Osweiler, who came to Cleveland in a trade as a throw-in following one miserable season as Houston’s starter, told reporters he’s only aware of the Browns’ sordid history at the position “because you guys talk about it all the time.”
The 26-year-old finally feels comfortable in his new surroundings and his excitement about an opportunity to revive his career comes across as genuine. Osweiler feels as if he has changed some opinions about him during Cleveland’s offseason workouts and he’s determined to make bigger strides.
“I want to be the starter of this team and I’m working every single day to put myself in a position to earn that starting job,” he said.
“But my focus isn’t anywhere as far as who’s getting what reps, my sole focus is what can I do today to be a better player and have a good practice and make my teammates better.”
Kessler is the incumbent, but his grip on the No. 1 spot is anything but firm.
He made eight starts as a rookie last season, when he was thrust into the starting lineup earlier than expected because of injuries. Kessler hardened his body thanks to a diligent workout program and strict diet, and he’s expected to open training camp next month atop the depth chart.
There are no guarantees he’ll stay there.
“It’s obviously coach Jackson’s decision,” he said. “For me, wherever I am, whether it’s the first time, second time, third time, you go in there and compete. You continue to make plays. It really is important. There are always guys rotating. For me, it’s the same mentality I’ve had the whole time. I’m going to make the most of my opportunities, learn from the film and continue to grow and improve.”
NOTES: Kizer signed his four-year rookie contract, which is worth nearly $5 million and includes a $1.7 million signing bonus. … Rookie DB Jabrill Peppers took the first kickoff returns during the afternoon workout, which was pushed inside by thunderstorms. Peppers and TE David Njoku are the only two of 10 draft picks still unsigned.