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Why the Cleveland Browns Need to Start Brian Hoyer and Lean on Trent Richardson in Week 3
It has happened again. Through all the offseason optimism, the Cleveland Browns sit at 0-2 in the NFL standings, with no help in sight. The struggles of the Browns have come partially due to injuries, but overall, they have failed to get it done in the second half. Not being able to finish games has been a consistent theme for this franchise over the past few years, perhaps the only thing consistent about the team.
Injuries have no doubt impacted the first two games, as they have had to do it without the help of running backs Montario Hardesty and Dion Lewis, offensive guards Shaun Lauvao and Jason Pinkston as well as the suspension of wide receiver Josh Gordon. With those injuries piling up, and a suffering depth chart in hand, the Browns have struggled to find an identity on offense. In turn, they have failed to move the chains and instead have relied on an emerging Jordan Cameron as their sole weapon on the field.
While running back Trent Richardson has not made the impact many have felt he would, he also has not been utilized on the field as much as many expected. In both games, he has failed to notch a carry in the fourth quarter, a glaring note that has not gone unnoticed in NFL circles. In both games, Richardson has gotten a mere 31 carries for 105 yards, with no touchdowns. He has not been used in goal line situations, and he has often come out on third downs, making it difficult to gain confidence or strike fear in opponents. Through the air, Richardson has had seven receptions for 51 yards, another surprisingly low number, considering he is widely known as the Browns best playmaker on the field.
In offensive coordinator Norv Turner‘s offense, he has often boasted a strong running attack, but so far we have seen nothing this year to back up that statement. While Richardson is no Emmitt Smith or LaDainian Tomlinson, clearly the potential to be great is there. A physically imposing back with uncanny power and versatility, Browns fans have waited with their breath held, waiting for the natural talent to be unleashed. So far, it has not come, but in Week 3 against the Minnesota Vikings, that time could finally arrive.
Due to an injury to quarterback Brandon Weeden, with rumors swirling of a potential broken wrist (currently being labeled a sprained thumb), it appears that the passing picture will see a new face on Sunday. On the depth chart, the obvious next man up is Jason Campbell. While he has been a solid quarterback over his NFL career, the Browns know very well what they have in Campbell already. A solid passer that can extend plays with his legs. He will have some inconsistency and throw his share of interceptions, but overall, his career 82.4 passer rating is a very telling number of his average level of play.
What the Browns do not know about is the third quarterback on their depth chart, Brian Hoyer. It is obvious that the general manager, Mike Lombardi, is a big supporter of Hoyer, making note of it on multiple occasions. As hard as it may be for some of the older Browns fans that lived through the 1990s with Lombardi at the helm to believe, the man knows what he is doing. He is an above-average talent evaluator, and his eyes have only gotten better seemingly with age. Trusting his evaluation of Hoyer is vital at this point. Campbell does not have the ability to put the team on his back and lead them to victory on his own, but Hoyer might.
A fiery leader at Michigan State, Hoyer has had the knack for getting the best out of average weapons in his career. While Weeden’s leadership has been questioned, that is one thing that nobody has been able to knock in regards to Hoyer. It was just a few short years ago that New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick put a second-round tender on his backup to Tom Brady. No teams bit on the high tag, but it showed the level of belief that Belichick had in Hoyer.
While the loss of Weeden’s cannon arm will definitely change the style of play, they need to take advantage of the opportunity to see what they truly have in Hoyer before the 2014 NFL Draft. With a potentially deep 2014 quarterback class, the Browns have got to see if they already have their answer on the depth chart, and this is their best opportunity to do so.
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