GREEN BAY - The extra reps for younger players in this week’s minicamp might be of greatest benefit to quarterback DeShone Kizer.
Having come to the Packers via Notre Dame and then the Cleveland Browns, two places he was the full-time starter, Kizer has spent two months in a Green Bay offseason program full of adjustments for him.
He’s had to learn yet another new offensive system and the precise footwork that goes with Mike McCarthy’s offense while having his reps naturally limited as a backup. For most of the spring, he has shared snaps with Brett Hundley behind Aaron Rodgers, who went through his usual regimen with the playbook installations.
This week’s a different story, with Rodgers one of 16 veterans excused from minicamp. Hundley has taken the first-team reps through the first two days, with Kizer getting more work with the second unit, including multiple two-minute drill opportunities.
He cashed in on one Tuesday, hitting receiver Jake Kumerow on a deep ball that dropped in nicely over the shoulder. The timing, delivery and execution all came together on a big play, the kind Kizer can build on heading into training camp, when the competition with Hundley for the No. 2 job begins in earnest.
“I think I’m getting there, as far as footwork goes,” Kizer said following Wednesday’s practice. “There’s definitely room to critique, but this footwork was built through Aaron’s 13 years, and to get my footwork to that, it’s going to take some time.”
If the focus on footwork sounds excessive, that’s because it’s fundamental to a timing-based, West Coast offensive system. It makes everything go. Physically, it’s been a significant change to Kizer’s game, coinciding with the mental processing of the playbook.
Kizer described the footwork he’s learning as “geared toward a more athletic quarterback than my past systems,” so in the end the effort should be well worth it for a 6-foot-4, 235-pound QB who can run. The word from multiple coaches is Kizer, acquired in an offseason trade, continues to make progress.
“It’s a new situation for me,” he said. “I’m starting to gain some confidence with it.”
Overall, Kizer certainly doesn’t lack confidence, which is admirable given a rough rookie year on a struggling Browns team. Zero wins and 22 interceptions are the stats that are tagged to him, and he attributes a number of the picks to playing from behind late in games and trying to force big things to happen.
Check out photos of the Packers at Ray Nitschke Field during their last day of minicamp.
This summer, he plans on showing a different type of quarterback, one who gets to start with a clean slate.
“It’s consistency,” he said of his primary objective for camp. “This is going to be an opportunity to go out there and string together positive plays.”
Kizer hopes to take a strong finish to the spring into the start of camp late next month, when everything speeds up a tick.
His adjustment to the speed of the NFL game in general came last year, so now, it’s a matter of getting his knowledge of the new system and footwork applied as a more experienced pro in Year 2.
“It was an offseason of trying to make some corrections off of obviously a tough first year, and this is my opportunity to correct those,” he said.
“A lot of L’s, but a lot of lessons as well. My last two seasons, even in college, we had the 4-8 year, a lot of learning experiences. But hopefully I can be defined by how I respond to those, because those things are what I think are going to propel me to be the quarterback I want to be.”