While the Browns found themselves disheveled and unable to execute on the offensive side of the football in their 24-6 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, Mike Pettine is not quite ready to hit the panic button. “Brian is still firmly our starter,” Pettine said.
Though Brian Hoyer completed just 16 of 41 passes for 215 yards and an interception, Hoyer has the confidence of his teammates and his coaches and rightfully so. Prior to Sunday’s loss to Jacksonville, he led his team to a 3-2 record with a league leading 138.9 passer rating out of play action. Hoyer was lauded for his decision-making and command of the huddle. Additionally, rumors regarding the conditions of his next contract were being discussed by multiple media outlets.
So after one poor performance should we stop believing in Hoyer? Absolutely not! Hoyer has been one of the more efficient quarterbacks in the NFL prior to the Jacksonville outing. Clamoring for Johnny Manziel to take the reigns at this juncture is certainly an improper narrative to derive from one bad showing. Pettine has certainly stood by his quarterback following the loss to Jacksonville. However, the vote of confidence he’s given Hoyer did not stop him from highlighting areas for improvement in the passing game.
“Obviously Brian didn’t play that well, especially statistically. A lot of it was because of those circumstances that we were forced to throw it. He was harassed. He was hit, sacked. That’s hard to be successful when you’re rushed.”
Pettine also held his quarterback accountable for occasionally getting rid of the football too early and not letting plays develop, but stopped shy placing the blame squarely on his shoulders. The Browns’ head coach also cited center Alex Macks’ injury as a contributing cause of their offensive woes.
“I think when you lose somebody the caliber of Alex, I think everybody needs to step up, and that wasn’t the case. Our guys across the board, I don’t know what the individual grades were, but I think it’s safe to say that none of those guys played their best game or, in a clear fashion, stepped up. It’s difficult. You just don’t replace him. There were some issues up front. They did a good job movement on the front. They were rolling off, penetrating. That’s the best defensive front that we’ve played, and it showed up.”
Pettine and his team remain optimistic with offensive lineman Nick McDonald on the mend, and nearing a return to action. Once he’s cleared by team doctors, he will likely be inserted into the lineup at the center position which will free up John Greco to return to right guard.
If the Browns are able to re-establish the run game with new personnel along the offensive line, and force the Raiders to commit extra defenders to stop the run, expect them to have multiple explosive plays off of play-action in week eight.
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