By Eric Szczepinski, 9-22-2014
The Cleveland Browns lost a valuable opportunity to go into their week 4 bye with an impressive 2-1 record with another heart breaker at First Energy Stadium Sunday. Brian Hoyer was once again impressive, going 19/25 with 290 yards and one touchdown. Hoyer finished the game with a 127 quarterback rating and prolonged his streak of 156 pass attempts without an interception, which is 4th longest in Browns history.
Hoyer once again took care of the ball and took what the Baltimore defense gave him. He didn’t force many throws and played his style of controlling the ball. Through the first 3 games Hoyer appears comfortable in Coach Shanahan’s quick passing attack. He has been confident on his reads and has delivered the ball with accuracy. Many of Hoyer’s completions come on quick throws to his first target where his receiver has the ball in space. Hoyer didn’t have to work his progressions as much Sunday. He connected on quick outs, hitches, and bubble screens and beat the Ravens blitzes. Hoyer executed perfectly and had the Browns offense on the move. One play where Hoyer showed he needs to improve was with 5:51 in the first quarter. The Browns faced a 1st & 20, and Jordan Cameron and Miles Austin both ran seams down the middle of the field. Hoyer looked at Cameron the whole way and tried to force one into coverage with the safety coming. Cameron was tripped up on the play and the fans cried for a pass interference penalty. However, on the left side Miles Austin was wide open running down the seam. Hoyer didn’t look left and missed an opportunity for a huge pass gain. It’s on plays where Hoyer has more time that he must look off the safeties and work both sides of the field in his progressions. On his quick passing game he has been money.
Hoyer also displayed his deep ball, connecting with Travis Benjamin for 43 yards and with Taylor Gabriel for 70 yards. Both plays were set up on play action fake boots. After the line crashed left Hoyer semi rolled to his right where he had streaking receivers down the field after Ravens corners were sucked in on the play action fake. Hoyer delivered two perfect balls in stride for big gains.
However, when the Browns needed a first down to run the clock out and get into victory formation they couldn’t execute. The Browns faced a 3rd & 7 with 2:09 to play. The Ravens used all 3 timeouts so a first down would have ended the game. On this play Hoyer was in shotgun formation with trips to his right. Hawkins was the inside receiver with Cameron in the middle; Hawkins ran a deep slant or crossing route over the middle while Cameron ran a hesitation off the line and a seam down the middle. Cameron was not checked off the line and was open at the 1st down marker after his hesitation move. However, Hoyer failed to look to the right side of the field to Cameron at all. He was locked in on Andrew Hawkins the whole way. He delivered a ball slightly behind Hawkins for an incompletion. Hoyer tried forcing the ball into a tight window where a linebacker and corner occupied the zone. This play would have provided the Browns with the win. You cannot pin the loss on not converting this 3rd down but it was certainly the key play of the game. Hoyer played his third straight game of effective and turnover free football. He needs to continue to work through his progressions and not get locked in on one receiver. He often locks onto Andrew Hawkins a lot because the shifty receiver gets open a lot. But, Jordan Cameron only got three targets which is inexcusable. He had 1 reception for 21 yards. Although Cameron was coming back from missing week 2 against New Orleans with a shoulder injury he must remain the number one option in the passing game.
Brian Hoyer has silenced critics through the 1st three games. Many predicted the Browns would be blown out in all three games. However, Hoyer has played effectively and has given the Browns a chance to win in all three games. The bye week comes at a perfect time for the Browns although it is early in the season. It gives additional time for Jordan Cameron, Ben Tate, and Barkevious Mingo to reach full strength. Hoyer has impressed and is in no position to lose the starting job to Johnny Manziel before playing Tennessee on week 5. The Browns are slowly developing Manziel the way they want and as long as Hoyer performs well it benefits Manziel in the long run for him as a player to grow and develop. If Manziel gets an opportunity this season he will be far ahead of where he was during preseason and will have a better grasp of the offense
Brian Hoyer Week 3 Grade: A-