November 25, 2014

Medina
Cloudy
35°F

Browns: Brian Hoyer sees silver lining in offensive struggles

Cleveland Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer fires a pass to wide receiver Andrew Hawkins against the St. Louis Rams Saturday. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Cleveland Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer fires a pass to wide receiver Andrew Hawkins against the St. Louis Rams Saturday. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

BEREA — The Browns’ offensive woes have generated frustration and agitation throughout the preseason.

Cleveland has scored exactly one first-half touchdown and 16 points in its first three exhibition games, illustrating just how poorly its starters have performed.

Quarterback Brian Hoyer, however, believes those numbers are misleading. He also expects much better results Thursday when the Browns conclude their preseason against Chicago at FirstEnergy Stadium.

“It’s not like we’re going out there and going three-and-out, three-and-out, three-and-out every drive,” Hoyer said Tuesday. “The most frustrating part to us is we’ve done some things really well, then we shoot ourselves in the foot.

“Obviously, we want to go out and play and execute really well against the Bears, but I don’t think they’ll be any hangover — positive or negative — going into the regular season.”

Cleveland coach Mike Pettine doesn’t disagree with Hoyer’s theory, but he also knows how important it is for the first-team offense to feel good about itself. That’s why his starters are slated to play the first quarter against the Bears.

With 10 days between the exhibition finale and the regular-season opener in Pittsburgh, the Browns’ playmakers have no choice but to be confident while they prepare for the Steelers.

“It’s a constant process, but you just try to build up the core concepts and principles of your offense,” Pettine said. “Then when the regular season hits, you kind of hit the ground running and hope you’ve got enough of those things down that you feel good about it.”

Starting running back Ben Tate has been effective thus far, as has wide receiver Andrew Hawkins, but Hoyer appears to be stuck in neutral.

The North Olmsted native and Cleveland St. Ignatius High graduate is 18-of-36 for 192 yards and a sub-par 63.7 passer rating. Hoyer threw his first TD of the summer Thursday in Cleveland’s 33-14 loss to St. Louis, but also was intercepted and lost a fumble.

“That’s why we’ve been coming out of these games feeling mad,” he said. “If we just sucked, then I think we would kind of just be down on ourselves, but we realize what kind of an offense we can be. It will always be a learning process because we’re all trying to get better.”

In Hoyer’s defense, the first-string offensive line has been somewhat ineffective, forcing him to test his reconstructed right knee much more than planned.

The good news is the joint has responded beautifully just 10 months after surgery. As he noted, “The amount of swelling is so minimal, you have to really try to dig in there to find it.”

Hoyer and wide receiver Miles Austin also are putting in extra hours working together for the good of the team. The former is learning his sixth offensive scheme in two calendar years, while the latter is adapting to a new quarterback after six seasons in Dallas.

If the Browns are going to be competitive early, Hoyer and the former Pro Bowl wideout know they have to be on the same page.

“It’s kind of hard getting rid of old habits, but sometimes they creep back in when you’re running a route or thinking a play is going the other way,” Austin admitted. “We’ll be fine, though. Brian and I are getting it done together, and we’ll be ready when the regular season starts.”

Hoyer believes his previous stops in New England, Arizona, and Pittsburgh — coupled with Austin’s knowledge of the Cowboys’ system — will wind up being a huge plus down the road. He feels the same way about Hawkins’ experiences in Cincinnati and Tate’s time in Houston.

Even if they don’t jell together this week against the Bears, Hoyer insists that all of them will help the offense thrive this fall.

“There is more than one way to skin a cat, so you have to listen to other people’s ideas,” he said. “It’s really valuable because they can bring up good things by bouncing ideas off you, which can wind up being something everyone benefits from.

“Obviously, we have to stick within the system we’re in, but we’re all going forward and learning how to make this work together.”

Contact Brian Dulik at brisports@hotmail.com.