ALAMEDA – Quarterback DeShone Kizer started every game for Cleveland his rookie season. He was Aaron Rodgers’ backup last year, cut just before this season started and joined the Raiders on a waiver claim.
He was placed down on the depth chart, in the No. 3 spot. He has been inactive every week, until this one.
Kizer will throw on a silver and black game jersey for the first time Sunday against Tennessee as Derek Carr’s backup. He wrestled the No. 2 spot from veteran Mike Glennon, who struggled in garbage-time duty two games back against the New York Jets.
The Raiders also know what they have in Glennon. Kizer’s 23 now, still trying to find himself after NFL experiences good and bad.
This isn’t a see-what-we’ve-got move. Offensive coordinator Greg Olson said Thursday that all moves made right now are to win the next game, not for long-term evaluation.
Believe him on that. The Raiders can vault into an attractive position with a Sunday victory over Tennessee, with a real shot at the AFC’s final wild-card spot. Having the best available option a bad snap away from the quarterback slot is an important decision.
It’s one Kizer values as a sign that he has been making progress learning Jon Gruden’s offense without an offseason program, training camp or many practice reps. Carr takes virtually every preparation snap, with the backups left to run the scout team.
Kizer has tried to maximize each opportunity, no matter how rare they are.
“That’s what comes with being a pro. You have to perform under any environment,” Kizer said. “I have a little playing experience within my rookie year. I got to learn from some great minds last year and I’m learning from a great football mind this year. I’m trying to stay ready as much as possible and perform as much as possible in practice, and that led to this point now. I’m trying to do whatever I can to help this team win.”
Kizer’s an athletic sort and has been charged with mimicking agile quarterbacks the Raiders have faced. Now he has to be ready to step in and perform at a moment’s notice. It previous weeks, that wasn’t possible.
“The mindset does change,” Kizer said. “As much as I want to say this week's practice is exactly the same, it's a little different. You're a little more honed in on what we're doing."
Kizer has remained engaged despite his depth-chart status, finding ways to progress without much work. Olson said Kizer spent extra time working by himself in the quarterback room learning the offense.
“It’s me versus myself in these moments,” Kizer said. “It’s about whether you’re putting in the work and the extra preparation as if you were playing and if it comes out in practice. There are only a few reps to get, but I feel like I’ve been on top of things and helping Derek in practice. I’m watching as much film as possible and trying to rip it on the few scout team reps I get. I just hope it would translate into a game.”
Kizer essentially has been a practice-squad player in previous weeks. The Notre Dame product took the right attitude into this endeavor, especially after losing his backup gig in Green Bay for a No. 3 role.
“It has been a different year for me, but at the same time I feel like it might be one of my more valuable years,” Kizer said. “It’s rare that you get a chance to step back and evaluate the process and make proper adjustments. I was provided that unique opportunity to see where I was the last two years and where I am now and what proper changes I could make. I made those changes, and now I’m in a position where I can potentially perform on a Sunday. That’s all that matters.”