Browns quarterback Jacoby Brissett deserves to start in the NFL

Now that Deshaun Watson has been cleared of his suspension to start at quarterback for the Cleveland Browns, the outsider is Jacoby Brissett, the former backup who completed 236 of 368 passes for 2,608 yards, 12 touchdowns, six interceptions and a quarterback rating. field. of 89.1 in his 12-week stand-in role. Brissett is in his first year with the Browns after bouncing around the league from the New England Patriots, Indianapolis Colts, Miami Dolphins and then the Browns on a one-year, $4.65 million contract.

What makes Brissett’s future especially interesting isn’t the body of the season; it’s what he did in the second half of his time with the Browns. From Week 7 through Week 12, he completed 112 of 162 passes for 1,282 yards, six touchdowns, one interception and a 102.4 passer rating, eighth best in the league. Brissett also completes his starting tenure this season ranking sixth in the NFL in Football Outsiders’ opponent-adjusted DVOA metric among quarterbacks, and sixth in DYAR. Since DVOA is more of a play-to-play efficiency metric, and DYAR is more cumulative, that pretty much covers everything.

Plus, it’s clear Brissett has earned the trust of his coaches and teammates as everyone in Cleveland prepares for the bleepshow that Watson’s rise will bring.

“It’s been great to have him as one of our leaders,” guard Joel Bitonio said of Brissett after Sunday’s 23-17 overtime win over the Buccaneers that led the Browns to 4-7 on the season. “He always talks about us and the team. Obviously, he never talks about himself, but he was thinking we’ve got to get one more because he’s played better than 3-7 or whatever our record was before tonight. He deserved a few more wins there, so I’m glad we got him one more here, and you never know.

“I think he has done as well as can be asked of him. If you just take Deshaun out of the picture, that he was out for a long time, he felt like Team Jacoby. Now, with Deshaun’s return, I think he has a presence that steps back, but he’ll still be there from what he sees. He’s played in 11 games now, and he’s done everything that can be asked of him. I really appreciate him, and he’s one of my favorite quarterbacks I’ve ever played with.”

Security and Defense Captain John Johnson III went further.

“It’s love,” Johnson said, when asked how it felt to win Brissett’s last game. “I think he exceeded expectations, and the record doesn’t show how well he’s been playing. He knew what he had to do and everyone on the team was proud. As I was saying, it could be a spark for us in a change of position for us. We will see.”

Next season, Brissett has a chance to be someone else’s favorite quarterback. And based on his 2022 tape, especially based on improvements in the second half of his 12-week stint, Brissett may not have just turned a few minor corners; he could be ready to be the full-scale starting quarterback he hasn’t been to date.

(Distribution: Akron Beacon Journal)

If there’s one thing I think held Brissett back in years past, it was his internal clock ticking too slow. He would get into pressure situations and miss receivers because things were taking too long on his head. Now, I see a quarterback with more confidence and therefore not afraid to release him in tight windows with mostly positive results.

We saw this in a simple slant to Amari Cooper with 2:45 remaining in overtime against the Buccaneers: This was a key play on the drive that led to Nick Chubb’s game-winning touchdown run. The Bucs were in Cover-2, and Brissett had cornerback Carlton Davis and Lavonte David closing in on Cooper. It did not matter; Brissett was going to take that shot put with time and anticipation, and Cooper caught the ball. This is a top notch release.

We also saw this characteristic in a 23-yard completion to Donovan Peoples-Jones in Week 10 against the Miami Dolphins. In this case, Brissett couldn’t throw with his normal timing because he was under pressure. But he used a fine pocket move to extend the play, and he tossed the ball between cornerback Xavien Howard and linebacker Blake Ferguson where Peoples-Jones could catch it. You don’t want your quarterback to rely on throws like these too often because of potential disasters, but it’s a nice tool to have in the box.

(Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports)

From weeks 1-6 of the 2022 season, according to Pro Football Focus, Brissett was a disaster under pressure, completing 22 of 51 passes under pressure for 298 yards, no touchdowns, four interceptions and a 29.7 passer rating. Only Zach Wilson (3.4) and Mac Jones (13.9) were worse.

But from week 7 to Sunday, the light came on. Brissett completed 24 of 49 passes under pressure for 349 yards, two touchdowns, one interception and a 77.7 passer rating. Not Hall of Fame stuff, but a definite upgrade.

What is the difference? Pretty simple. Recently, Brissett stopped throwing the ball up with desperate jerks when the pressure was most prominent. That’s how he got into trouble earlier with two pressure interceptions against the New England Patriots in Week 6. This kind of thing kills the passing game.

In this Cooper 25-yard touchdown run against the Bills, notice how much more Brissett uses the pocket move to keep his cool under pressure. Now, he’s not fighting to restore his body. He’s on it, and this is a big slot ball with Buffalo cornerback Taron Johnson on target for him.

Brissett has been a much better passer in the pocket than he is when trying to make things happen outside of it. Pocket movement, not pocket escapability, is the key to his success.

(Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports)

Recent improvement under pressure has also been evident on deeper pitches. In the first six weeks of the season, according to Sports Info Solutions, Brissett completed 44 of 92 passes over the sticks for 725 yards, 597 passing yards, five touchdowns, five interceptions and a 73.7 passer rating. Since then? 32 of 49 completions for 645 yards, 510 passing yards, four touchdowns, no interceptions and a 135.8 passer rating.

Early in the season, it seemed like Brissett was struggling to diagnose what he had against what coverage on deeper pitches. That’s not so much of a problem anymore. This 38-yard completion from Donovan Peoples-Jones against the Dolphins shows that Brissett, when he works on the timing and pace of the play, can be as effective a deep shooter as anyone in the league.

There’s one thing that, if corrected on a larger scale, would make Brissett an even more dangerous deep pitcher, and maybe push him up a couple notches in the quarterback pantheon, so let’s get to that.

(Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports)

Brissett’s deliberate nature still gets in the way at times; there are cases where you want to see it adjust and release at the time of the fall. This incompletion pass from Dee to Anthony Schwartz with 6:06 remaining in the fourth quarter on Sunday looked like an easy completion once Schwartz overcame Tampa’s Coverage-2 missteps: They didn’t account for the move correctly. But Brissett waited and drifted until cornerback Jamel Dean had time to recover, at which point the window was closed. If Brissett throws this ball when he’s standing on the “W” in the end zone, instead of past the “N” and all the way to the “S,” it’s a blast play.

This late pitch to tight end David Njoku on a deep route against the Bills in Week 10 tells a similar story. Njoku runs free through the guts of Buffalo’s Cover-3; You probably want to throw him before Jordan Poyer — the NFL’s best coverage safety has a chance to catch up.

So maybe it’s ingrained, and maybe only part of it can be removed through training. But it’s not the fatal flaw it used to be; Mostly, it keeps Brissett from becoming the kind of big deep passer his tools indicate he could be.

(Distribution: The Columbus Dispatch)

Brissett would be better in an offense where movement out of the pocket isn’t a priority, full-field reads are the order of the day, and the quarterback isn’t beholden to any particular personnel or schematic conceit. Brissett has been around long enough and played on enough offenses to top that. He’s not really a “system quarterback” in a pejorative sense, but there are concepts he’s more comfortable with, and that’s true of any quarterback.

The Buccaneers, Colts and Texans are three pocket teams with potential quarterback needs in 2023. You never know what could happen with Derek Carr in the offseason, but Brissett could also be a great fit for the Raiders’ offense.

The point is that what Brissett has shown in the 2022 season points him toward a potential career renaissance in the Geno Smith mold than doomed as a career substitute. To have done all of this under some of the most bizarre circumstances possible is a big feather in his cap.

“I don’t take lightly being in the locker room or being in the group and going to work with these guys,” Brissett concluded after his final win. “I don’t take it lightly. I just try to go out there and be myself, do my best, work hard and be someone the players can lean on. That’s better than victory.”

Now, it’s up to the NFL to tell Jacoby Brissett how much this all really means.

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