BEREA — Corey Coleman has let himself imagine the possibilities. DeShone Kizer dropping back and using his rocket arm to throw ropes to Coleman downfield for first downs and touchdowns.
“It could be a very bright future for both of us if we keep on doing what we need to do,” Coleman said Monday.
Kizer, the No. 52 pick out of Notre Dame in April, was named the starting quarterback for the season. Coleman, the No. 15 pick out of Baylor in 2016, is expected to fill the role of No. 1 wideout.
The pair got off to a nice start Saturday against Tampa Bay in Kizer’s first start. They hooked up on a 32-yarder down the sideline on third-and-4, an 11-yard slant on third-and-10 from the 1 and a 13-yard out on third-and-9. A 16-yard back-shoulder completion was nullified by a questionable pass interference penalty on Coleman.
He stretched to make all the completions, helping out his young quarterback.
“He is a heck of an athlete and the way our offense is set up, with him backside quite a bit, if they’re going to give us an opportunity to go one-on-one, he’s going to have to make those plays consistently,” Kizer said. “And he showed us obviously against Tampa that he has that big-play ability to go up there and make some big plays for us.
“So to have that in my back pocket at all times gives me a lot of confidence when I’m in the pocket.”
Coach Hue Jackson said the chemistry between Kizer and Coleman can be “huge” for an offense expected to struggle throwing the ball.
“You have a guy that you feel can win and make plays on third down,” Jackson said. “That is what you have to do in this league. That is the money down.”
Coleman also caught a 10-yard pass from Cody Kessler and finished with four catches for 56 yards. For the preseason he shares the team lead with eight catches for a team-best 106 yards.
He’s healthy after missing most of the offseason program with a hamstring injury. He dealt with the same issue last preseason, then was sidelined for six weeks during the season with a broken hand. He finished his rookie season with 33 catches for 413 yards and three touchdowns.
“I’m getting back in the groove, feeling comfortable out there and we just need to continue to get better,” Coleman said.
The Browns always seem to have uncertainty at the quarterback position. Now it’s regarding the backups.
Jackson said it’s undecided who will play Thursday in the finale against the Bears, who the backup will be for the regular season and how many quarterbacks will make the final roster. Brock Osweiler, Cody Kessler and Kevin Hogan are in contention.
“All of that is on the table,” Jackson said. “All of those guys have earned the right to compete for that job.”
Left guard Joel Bitonio and defensive tackle Danny Shelton worked on the side with trainers during practice as they rehab from knee injuries. They will miss their third straight preseason game Thursday, but Jackson is optimistic they’ll be ready Week 1 for the Steelers.
“I think those guys are on schedule. I feel good about those guys,” Jackson said. “That is my hope.”
** Safety Ed Reynolds (knee), offensive lineman Cameron Erving (calf) and defensive tackle Xavier Cooper (undisclosed) also worked on the side.
** Defensive end Cam Johnson (knee) returned to practice. He hasn’t played in the preseason.
** Fullback Danny Vitale (ankle) and defensive end Nate Orchard (groin) didn’t practice and weren’t on the field during the portion open to reporters.
Tight ends David Njoku and Seth DeValve are expected to be major contributors this season, yet they played into the fourth quarter Saturday after the other starters and key backups had taken a seat on the bench.
“I’m asking our young players to get better. Guys need to play,” Jackson said. “We are a really young football team. Just because they are out there doesn’t mean that someone is mad at them or they have done something wrong. Some guys just need more seasoning.”
Njoku was the No. 29 pick in April and recently turned 21. DeValve is in his second season out of Princeton and had 10 catches as a rookie.
DeValve has eight catches for 73 yards after three preseason games. Njoku has two for 13.
“They need to play as much football as they can to get better and to get ready for the regular season because some of these guys will be playing a lot of football,” Jackson said.