September 21, 2014

Medina
Mostly cloudy
65°F

Browns: Red-hot Hoyer gets start

BEREA — Brandon Weeden’s thumb is healthy, he felt good throwing the ball Monday and practiced fully.

Unfortunately for him, if not unexpectedly, that’s where the good news stopped.

For the first time since the offseason program began in April, a healthy Weeden didn’t take the snaps with the starters. Coach Rob Chudzinski announced Brian Hoyer would start Thursday night against Buffalo, then didn’t commit to Weeden as the No. 2.

Brian Hoyer

“For me, I’d be lying if I said it was the ideal situation,” Weeden said. “I want to be out there. You never draw it up that you’re going to get hurt Week 2 and stuff like this happens. But it’s life. You can’t feel sorry for yourself.

“I’ve got to do what I can to help this team. I’m treating it like this is still my football team, I’m still involved in the offense. I’m not discouraged, I’m going to keep continuing to prepare like I have been and if my number’s called I’m ready to go.”

The decision to start Hoyer for a third straight game was a foregone conclusion following his 2-0 start and solid play that thrust the Browns into a first-place time in the AFC North with Cincinnati and Baltimore at 2-2. He cemented the victory and job by going 5-for-5 for 56 yards on a 91-yard drive in the fourth quarter Sunday against the Bengals.

“I think he improved from the week before,” Chudzinski said. “His decisions were very good. We had some long drives we were able to string together because some of the things he did on third down, the decisions he was making and the guys were rallying around him.”

Hoyer has been the spark Chudzinski was searching for when Weeden went down after banging his right hand on a helmet Sept. 15 in the fourth quarter against Baltimore. The offense had scored one touchdown and 16 points in two games with Weeden.

The Browns have scored 48 points in the two wins, and Hoyer has gone 55-for-92 (60 percent) for 590 yards with five touchdowns, three interceptions, six sacks and an 83.2 rating.

“You have to credit his preparation. Just to be thrown into the fire like that, that’s something that’s not easily done,” receiver Davone Bess said of Hoyer, who had one career start in four previous NFL seasons. “It doesn’t happen like that, especially winning two games in a row like that. He (has) a competitive nature just to get the job done.”

Chudzinski declined to name Hoyer the starter beyond Thursday, sticking to the week-by-week policy he adopted when Weeden was hurt.

“Where we’re at, in terms of that, I’m comfortable with,” Chudzinski said. “We’re focused on the week. We’re focused on the day.

“It’s not adversely affecting our guys in any way, so we’ll continue to go in that direction.”

But it’s clearly Hoyer’s job to lose after beginning the season third on the depth chart.

“I just hope Brian keeps playing well,” left tackle Joe Thomas said. “That’s all I can say. He’s done a nice job the last two games. He’s getting more comfortable every week.

“So hopefully he can do a nice job on Thursday for us, and those things take care of themselves.”

The change in career course has been just as abrupt for Weeden. He was the No. 22 pick in 2012, threw for a Browns-rookie-record 3,385 yards and won the right to keep the job in training camp and the preseason.

But after a rough start — 47-for-86 (55 percent), a touchdown, three interceptions, 11 sacks and a 62.0 rating — and the injury, his present and future are in limbo. He turns 30 in 13 days and never had the faith of the front office.

“One thing about being a quarterback, whether you’re a backup, starter, third-string, you’re a snap away and you’ve got to keep that mindset, you’ve got to prepare like you’re going to play,” he said. “So I’m just going to continue to prepare like I’m the starter, study, come in early, watch the same amount of tape, study the same amount of time.”

Chudzinski must choose his backup for Buffalo between Weeden and Jason Campbell, who’s been No. 2 the first four weeks.

“We will work (Weeden) back into practice and see where he’s at this week,” Chudzinski said.

Weeden said he can be ready.

“Mentally I could. Physically I could,” he said. “It’s tough, you don’t get any reps — you get the scout team reps — so we’ll see how that goes.”

Weeden talked to Chudzinski and coordinator Norv Turner about the decision to start Hoyer and the long-term plans, but wouldn’t reveal the details.

“We’re playing well right now,” he said. “I’m the ultimate team guy, I want to win games, I want to be on a team that’s winning games, it makes this business a lot more fun. And Brian’s playing well, the offense is playing well, defense is playing outstanding.

“It’s fun to watch. I’m happy for this football team.”

Plenty of people have given up and moved on from Weeden. Despite the humbling events of the last two weeks, he still feels he has what it takes to be a successful starter.

“I still got a lot of confidence in my ability and I’m not discouraged,” he said. “I’m not going to feel sorry for myself and start sulking and pouting, that’s just not the way I go about it. I’m still confident in what I can do.”

Contact Scott Petrak at (440) 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @scottpetrak.