BEREA — Cornerback Jamar Taylor didn’t hesitate in describing new starting quarterback Kevin Hogan.
He did surprise.
“I call him a silent assassin,” Taylor said Thursday.
The first part of the compliment was predictable for a guy lost in the shuffle to open his NFL career. The second part raised eyebrows.
“He really doesn’t say much, but he always knows what he has to do,” Taylor said. “He knows where his throws are. Pre-snap, he knows where he’s going. Then he can use his legs.
“He’s just a smart guy, a Stanford guy. The things he does in the game for us, people get amazed, but you can’t forget the kid’s just used to playing good and used to winning.”
Rookie tight end David Njoku has caught three touchdown passes through five games, two coming from Hogan in relief of DeShone Kizer, who was demoted to backup this week. Hogan will make his first NFL start Sunday against the Houston Texans.
“He’s a beast,” Njoku said. “Kevin, it’s clicking for him right now, which is exciting for him, and I wish him the best. I’m really excited to see how far he goes.”
Taylor’s description drew a laugh from Njoku.
“He talks. I talk to him,” he said. “I find that very interesting. I’m going to go with it. Definitely a silent assassin.”
Hogan was an afterthought throughout the offseason as the No. 4 quarterback, then invisible for much of the preseason due to the competition among Kizer, Cody Kessler and Brock Osweiler for the starting job. But only six games into his second season in the league, Hogan has risen to the top of the depth chart.
And for the right reason: Coach Hue Jackson believes he gives the team the best chance to win.
Jackson has a vision for the offense that wasn’t realized with Kizer. He’s hopeful Hogan can make it come to life.
“There is a rhythm to him when he plays,” Jackson said. “He understands the rhythms that I am looking for.”
Hogan played about three quarters in relief of Kizer in the 0-5 start and led the Browns to 31 of their 77 points. He’s scored those points in 10 possessions, while it took Kizer 48 possessions for 46 points. Hogan accounted for all the scoring against the Ravens, Bengals and Jets.
Hogan played the second half Sunday against the Jets and led two touchdown drives. He’s looking to build on the momentum.
“I’m excited. It is another opportunity to go out there and play some ball, which I love,” he said. “I played a lot of games in college, and when I was out there the other day, it felt like I was in college again.
“I’m looking forward to the opportunity. I’m going to prepare my butt off this week for the guys around me and make sure they have confidence in me and trust me to lead them so that I’m feeling good going into Sunday.”
Hogan set Stanford records with 36 wins, 10,634 total yards and 1,249 rushing yards by a quarterback. He won the Rose Bowl twice.
He was a fifth-round pick of the Kansas City Chiefs in 2016 but was cut after the preseason as they elected to keep veteran Nick Foles as the lone backup.
“You always keep a chip on your shoulder,” said Hogan, who chose to sign on the Cleveland practice squad, was quickly promoted to the active roster and played in four games. “I have always believed in myself, so it is definitely disappointing when you feel that others don’t.
“I stayed confident and knew I can definitely improve and play in this league. I felt like I had a very successful college career and played against a lot of great defenses then, so I knew that if I kept getting better, then I would have a chance to play on Sundays.”
He worked with quarterback coach Jeff Christiansen during the offseason, focusing on footwork and tightening his throwing motion. Jackson and teammates noticed the improvements.
“He’s a really hard worker,” tight end Randall Telfer said. “When he came in here he was on the practice squad and he’s worked his way up to where he is now and I’m very proud of everything that he’s done, and he’s earned it. He’s improved drastically from last year. I’ve got all the confidence in the world in him.”
Jackson called Hogan “Steady Eddie” and said he’s been good in his first practice week as the starter. Jackson said the switch was made for this week and will be re-evaluated. Hogan said he’s not getting ahead of himself and thinking about this being the beginning of his career as a starter.
“I’m not worried about what’s down the road,” he said. “It is going to be one step at a time.”
Receiver Ricardo Louis caught a 31-yard pass from Hogan vs. the Bengals and three for 43 against the Jets. He praised Hogan’s poise and confidence and agreed he’s the strong, silent type.
“It’s just something about the way he carries himself and the way he approaches certain things, you look at him as a leader,” Louis said. “And you don’t have to have a person that’s a leader always talking, always doing this, doing that. He leads in his own way and we gravitate towards it, and it’s great.
“Every time he’s gone in the game he’s done some great things. I’m looking forward to it and so is everybody else.”