Cleveland Browns Weekly: Breakdown of Brian Hoyer

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Written by Eric Szczepinski

Week 1 Pittsburg Steelers

It was a tale of two halfs. In the first half the Browns looked under prepared and overwhelmed by the Pittsburg Steelers. They carried the term “same old Browns,” something Head Coach Mike Pettine vowed would change in 2014. After responding to a Steeler field goal, Pittsburg’s offense scored 24 unanswered points. Trialing 27-3 at half time, the offense rallied around Brian Hoyer and a strong run game lead by Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell to come back and tie the game at 27-27. Here’s my week 1 breakdown of all the action using the coach’s tape. (Birds eye view)

 

Brain Hoyer- Hoyer completed 61% of his passes, going 19/31 for 230 yards and 1 touchdown. Hoyer started the game beautifully by hitting Jordan Cameron on a deep fade. Hoyer looked off the safety left and came back to his right and delivered a perfect over the shoulder ball to Cameron who was in man coverage working against Lawrence Timmons. Taking advantage of a clear mismatch, Hoyer hit his play-making tight end right away. This drive resulted in a field goal to tie the game at 3.

The rest of the first half was suspect for Brian Hoyer and the Browns offense. After the opening drive resulted in a field goal the Browns hit a roadblock. Hoyer and the Browns were 0-6 on third down in the 1st half. Hoyer was 1-6 on third down, his only completion coming on a screen to Jordan Cameron for a short gain. On third downs Hoyer was facing blitzes from Pittsburg’s defense. Hoyer rushed throws and didn’t set his feet when delivering the ball. For example he had an open Jordan Cameron on third and 17 in the second quarter, Hoyer rushed and threw it into the ground when it should have been a completion. For the Browns to have success in 2014 Hoyer must improve in converting third downs.

The second half provided to be a different story for the Browns offense. Kyle Shannahan made adjustments and the offense came out firing scoring on 4 possessions in a row. The Browns kept an up tempo pace in the second half and went no huddle. The biggest adjustment was play calling. The Browns ran a majority of their plays from the pistol formation in the second half. They ran zero plays from pistol in the first half. The Browns were able to establish a running attack with the combination of Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell. From the pistol the zone run blocking scheme worked,  holes opened, and West and Crowell capitalized.

The established run game opened the play action pass for Brian Hoyer. The first play of the second half the Browns lined up in single-back formation, faked a run right in which the whole line crashed right and Hoyer was able to easily hit Andrew Hawkins on a deep stop route. The corner Ike Taylor was playing off the speedy Hawkins and Hoyer recognized the man coverage again perfectly. Hoyer was able to connect with Hawkins 8 times on the day for 87 yards. Hoyer exploited the man coverage placed on the shifty Andrew Hawkins. Late in the third quarter with the Browns facing a huge third down and 12, Hoyer stepped up in the pocket and kept his feet set. Although he pumped faked he was still able to hit Andrew Hawkins over the middle on a deep in route. Hoyer showed the capability to stay in and make a huge throw for a crucial first down.

Hoyer’s best two throws of the day came back to back early in the fourth quarter. On second down and 14, trailing 27-20, Hoyer worked out of the pistol formation. He scanned the field right, came back left, and then finally worked his eyes back to the middle to find Andrew Hawkins for a gain of 17. Hoyer showed his capability to work his progressions and find his open receiver. The next play the Browns were again in pistol formation, Hoyer play action faked to West right and rolled out to his left, going against his body he was able to set and throw a dart to Travis Benjamin who ran a double move corner route for a touchdown. Hoyer threw a perfect ball to beat the corner Ike Taylor.

Cleveland got the ball back with 7:13 to play and a tie game. The Browns looked to score and take the lead. The drive started at the Browns own 6-yard line and after a dump pass to Gary Barnidge for a thirteen yard gain, and a Terrance West 29 yard run, the Browns were threatening. The Browns had the ball at the Steelers 36 yard line. On second down and seven from the 36 Hoyer worked again out of pistol and stared down Miles Austin on the right side. He only looked Austin’s way and fired a ball that was nearly picked off by Cortez Allen.

The following play the Browns faced a critical third down. Hoyer worked out of shotgun formation and trips set to the right (Benjamin, Hawkins, Barnidge). Hoyer stared down Barnidge and forced it into triple coverage. Barnidge ran a hook route right at the first down marker and didn’t have any chance as the pass was batted down. On this play Travis Benjamin broke open over the middle for an easy first down. Hoyer didn’t see him and the Browns punted instead of kicking a 54-yard field goal. Another first down would have been well in Billy Cundiff’s range and the outcome of the game might have been different. The Browns finished the day 2-11 on third down. When the Browns were faced with third downs they simply were not able to convert and Hoyer became a different quarterback. The Browns got the ball one more time and went 3 and out, giving the Steelers under a minute left. Big Ben rallied his troops and made two huge throws, both against Browns rookie Justin Gilbert, to set up Shawn Suisham’s game winning field goal as time expired.

Kyle Shannahan made adjustments at halftime and got his offense clicking in the second half. His zone run scheme worked and it opened the play action pass for Brian Hoyer. It gave Hoyer wide-open receivers and he was able to connect and take advantage. For the Browns and Hoyer to be a relevant offense they must get better on third downs and it starts with Hoyer being consistent working through his progressions like he did in the third quarter of the game. Hoyer must play at his third quarter and early fourth quarter form to be effective as the Browns starter.

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