Monday night marked what would likely have been the final time the Cleveland Browns marched towards the 2014 NFL season with uncertainly at the quarterback position. Head coach Mike Pettine seemed ready to name his starting quarterback, and it all came down to the performances of Brian Hoyer or Johnny Manziel.
Well, that’s what I’d written before the game started. Sadly, I’m not sure now if we’re any closer to having our answer, after what may go down as one of the worst showings by a Browns offense–and that says something.
The Browns took the field against the Washington Redskins. Hoyer got the first crack at the Redskins defense that, in a touch of irony, held Ryan Mallett, the man who superseded Hoyer in New England, to just 5-of-12 with 55 yards in their preseason opener against New England last week.
Hoyer managed to be worse.
The first snap resulted in a six-yard sack on a snap-count snafu, followed by a false start from the offense and then a drop from Jordan Cameron. It was almost salvaged by a 19-yard scamper on 3rd-and-forever by Ben Tate, who I might add, looked very good.
The second drive was something we have come to expect from the Cleveland Browns–run, run, pass–that culminated in a drop by Andrew Hawkins that should have been a 3rd down conversion.
When the Redskins took the field, a fumble by Alfred Morris from a botched pitch and an interception by Joe Haden stopped the Redskins from scoring, and got Johnny Manziel on the field.
He too managed to be worse.
A drop from Cameron on 2nd-and-5, Manziel was sacked on 3rd down to result in straight three-and-outs.
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) August 19, 2014
By the time the half ended the reality had set in that this game was another failure by the offense. They failed to move the chains against the opposition starters, and even against the back-ups it wasn’t spectacular.
Hoyer finished 2-of-6 for 16 yards. Manziel finished 7-of-16 for 65 yards and one touchdown, but most of his success came against Washington’s back-up players in the second half. Neither player was able to separate themselves from the other. It wasn’t all a disaster on behalf of the quarterbacks, there were drops aplenty for the second consecutive week as the receivers continued to do their best Greg Little impersonations, but ultimately both signal-callers need to do better.
On the bright side, Hoyer knew where he was going. Several drops ended drives early, including Hawkins dropping a sure-thing touchdown. And he was generally making the right decisions, it was just his accuracy that left a lot to be desired. Manziel, I thought, showed progress from his debut against the Detroit Lions. He didn’t look to scramble so quickly. He looked more in control, went through his progressions better and didn’t look lost. He just looked like a rookie, which given he is, is okay in my book.
The numbers don’t reflect the true extent of the play from either quarterback, yet neither do they excuse what we shouldn’t need to excuse given it’s only the preseason.
It’s a difficult game to digest. It’s not often you seen an offense stall like this in consecutive pre-season games. The only answer I can prove with any semblance of certainty is the Browns have a lot of work do before the regular season arrives, or it will be hard to feel like we’re heading north.