Before we go all in with a QB at #4…
A consensus is forming among Browns fandom that a quarterback must be taken with this year’s #4 draft pick. You would think we were entering 2014 with Brandon Weeden and/or Colt McCoy as the incumbent starting QB.
Not so fast.
Brian Hoyer looked pretty good if memory serves. Scratch that, let’s say really good. Are we that sure anyone in the draft can give us more that Brian Hoyer? If not, then why the imperative to get a QB at #4? Players taken in the top 10 aren’t usually developmental bench-warmers and if Hoyer plays like he did pre-injury, that’s what our top 10 first rounder will be for the second year in a row. If we want a developmental QB, there’s plenty available later in the draft. But if we want an NFL starting QB,,, I vaguely think we have one, perhaps even a good one, and maybe we can go a different direction at #4.
But first things first and so I set out to double-check my gut feeling on this. For now, I’m just taking a second look at the Vikings game.1
If we only look at Hoyer’s stats in that game, it’s pretty “meh:” 30/54, 321 yds, 3 TDs, 3 INTs. Rating = 68.5. Only two drops. 5.9 yds/attempt. That’s not very impressive is it? I guess it’s not except that you and I watched that game and know Hoyer played great.
So just where is the disconnect between our eyes and these stats?
Let’s find out together. I screen-capped the Vikes/Browns game and the raw mp3s are available to you here (most of Hoyer’s in-game pass attempts) and here (the game-winning drive snaps). <–If these links don’t give you a video inside your browser, do a right-click on the links > Save As… > and then open up the files locally. Note also, the raw files from Dropbox don’t buffer so streaming will be choppy; better to download and view locally.2 Along with the clips, here is my rough synopsis by drive:
Browns’ offensive drives vs. Vikings synopsis[Harlan/Wilcots announcing. I give them high marks for their call.]
Drive #1, 3/out. Bess drop; run stuff; Bess route fail.
Accurate passes and quick releases.
#2, TD. Nice rollout right to Bess; 3rd/10 convert underneath to Cameron; Gordon bomb vs. CB replacement. All passes accurate.
Hoyer (or coaches) pick on a new cornerback on his first play matched up on Gordon. Hoyer makes sure not to overthrow the wide open Gordon (so pass is slightly behind him).
#3, TD. Bubble screen to Gordon executed perfectly, 30 yds, bad read option keeper, nice 3rd/1 out route, dicey 1st/10 out route; perfect deep throw to Cameron at end zone sideline, probably 35 yards in air.
You can’t throw a better deep corner pass.
#4, FG. Perfect swing pass; (great fake punt call by Chud); announcers talk about Hoyer learning from Brady: game preparation, film watching, ball placement for max YAC.
#5, TD. Perfect cross route pass, better defense; deeper cross route, another perfect pass; dubious PI non-call; Hoyer calls timeout pre-critical 3rd/4; Bess drop force FG attempt; (great fake FG call by Chud.).
#6, Interception. Looks like just a bad pick, on Hoyer.
#7, Interception. Couple nice catches by Bess; good quick pass to Little; announcer jinx in play as next play is picked. Greg Little fell down on his route.. could be that was the issue.
#8, one 1st down, punt. Three consecutive meh passes.
#9, 4 and out. After great Benjamin return, Browns go for it on 4th down. Hoyer avoids a sack on 2nd down; Gordon should have had third down catch; 4th down pass batted at line.
This was Gordon’s first game of the year. The non-first-game Josh Gordon converts the first down 100% of the time.
#11, Ugly pick deep in Vikes territory. After McGahee run backwards -6 followed by 12 men on field -5, it’s 2nd/21. Hoyer’s arm hit, pop fly interception ensues. Worth noting, ONeill Cousins (or Alex Mack) whiffs on the Viking who gets to Hoyer.
I have a hard time killing Hoyer on this pick. If he takes the sack, that’s bad too. Gotta have a little better interior protection.
Drive #12, 3/out. Sack (McGahee blown up), grounding (Cousins releases for screen, Rainey tries to pick up Cousins’ man… no receiver to throw to.).
The three picks are preying on Hoyer’s head and you won’t see him risk anything from here out.
#13, punt. Decent start to drive with two crisp completions, sack (Schwartz beat), 3rd/19 fail.
#14, punt. Well executed blitz = sack + false start on Thomas = 3rd/20.
Ball control mode again when faced with 3rd/long.
#15, TD. Huge 3rd/10 pickup to Gordon; good YAC pass to Ogbannaya; throws to window to Gordon for 1st down; two throws to the blonde in the first row (ahem, Brian Sipe); perfect game winning flag route to Cameron. Perfect.
Perfect, perfect, perfect coming down the stretch.
All about the YAC.
At 2:18 in the long clip I cut off Harlan/Wilcots discussing what Hoyer took away from working with Tom Brady and how precision ball placement allows the receivers to max out yards-after-catch. Brady is fantastic at this. It turns out, Brian Hoyer is not too shabby. I counted nine passes with QB-assisted YAC. I can’t find a box score that tracks it but I have Hoyer’s YAC at roughly 90 yards and even that doesn’t tell the whole story. There were at least three 3rd down conversions delivered via YAC. Remember how we hate five yard routes on 3rd/10? Welp, it turns out that if the ball is on the money, your receiver might/could get those other five yards for you.
Quick release is big.
PFF keeps stats on QB release times and I find it an interesting stat because it is one of the few stats that sync with what your eyes see. In other words: real quick, which QBs has the fastest read/release? You said Brady and Manning right? You were correct, see at right.
What is interesting is that the sampling we have of Hoyer’s play indicates that he rates between Brady and Rothlisberger in the ‘Average Time to Throw’ stat.3 Of course correlation does not impy causation because Andy Dalton. Nonetheless, Hoyer gets rid of the ball fast and decisively.
This *can* lead to turnovers. I would say his pick at the end of the first half (drive #6) was bad read, quick release. I can’t tell if the pick in drive #7 was due to too quick release or if Little’s route led to the pick. But after _x_ many years of the Mangini-Shurmur check-down, no turnover offense… I swear an oath here and now not to bitch excessively if my QB throws a pick or two. You gotta take the bad with the good, risk/reward, etc., etc.
Here’s an interesting breakdown of the Hoyer’s performance in the Vikings game.
Here’s what’s not to like.
If I put on my critical bitch uniform, I can find some problems. To me, Hoyer shows a tendency to throw off his back foot when under pressure. On one hand, it’s good that he’ll stand in under pressure. But his internal clock seems a millisecond slow and so his pocket-courage can lead to some balls going up for grabs. I can think of at least one play were he jammed a ball into a closing window while under pressure (6:55 in first clip) and got away with it… but to be honest, it could have just as easily been another pick.
I think you can ding Hoyer for staring down his targets but on the other hand, since he gets rid of the ball so fast it doesn’t seem to cause a problem.
Other than that,,, I’d be nit-picking with any other critiques. The arm-strength seems fine-to-good. He completed a lot of passes outside the numbers. It seemed like Greg Little was either not running his routes correctly and/or not getting separation, but the view from here says get Hoyer at decent #2 WR and awesomeness will ensue.
About that knee…
Hoyer’s knee and rehab are the wild cards in this. But we
like love that Hoyer appears to be in 100% gym rat mode, doing his training at Berea. The fact of his being at Berea training when Pettine showed up to sign his contract has got to have him off on the right foot with the new head coach. (Go to 0:18 in this clip.) My guess is that’s where Pettine would be if he were in Hoyer’s shoes. My guess is that Pettine values that sort of work and discipline and will want to hold on to it and make it flourish.
Sidebar: game ball goes the Chud.
Not that it matters now, but Chud’s calls on special teams won this game. He’s got an 0-2 team who just lost their starting QB and had their starting RB traded. He went balls out for the win, trusted his players to execute, they all came through for him. Chud won his locker room this game regardless of how the rest of the year played out.45
Here’s the film in embeds, subject to being pulled without notice…
Minny game #1.
Minny game last drive.
- May or may not get into the Bengals win at a later date. [back]
- Youtube and NFL are superb at seeking/destroying out clips like these but if you’d like to avoid those downloads, you can also view those clips here until my premium VideoPress subscription expires. [back]
- For comparison’s sake: Weeden was #50, Campbell #52. [back]
- The early Kanick pick at #4 continues to move up national draft boards. [back]
- And also the subject of a Brent Sobleski exclusive. [back]