1st-half thoughts: Hoyer's big chance

Posted Aug 29, 2013

CHICAGO – Here are my first-half thoughts from the Browns' preseason-finale against the Bears Thursday night at Soldier Field:

>> Brian Hoyer gets an unexpected opportunity. When you’re a third-string quarterback and you’re told at the last minute you’re going to start, you don’t want to waste any time making a good impression. And Hoyer didn’t, connecting with Josh Gordon on a 45-yard throw on the game’s first play. He couldn’t have responded much better to the opportunity created when No. 2 quarterback Jason Campbell was scratched because of flu-like symptoms (although he is available to play if needed). Of course, the pass came out late and took its time getting to Gordon, who was wide open and likely would have scored had the ball hit him in stride. But it still constituted a nice start … until, two plays later, when Hoyer was intercepted on a poorly thrown pass intended for Gordon. The Bears converted the turnover into a field goal. Later, Hoyer did hit on a couple of nice back-to-back passes to Gordon (for 32 yards) and Travis Benjamin (for 10) to help move the Browns deep into Chicago territory, only for Spencer Lanning to miss badly on a 41-yard field-goal attempt.

>> Kicker concerns? That wasn’t a mistake in the previous thought. Lanning, a punter, did attempt a field goal. That was because kicker Shayne Graham developed tightening in his back. Now, the Browns have two kickers who are hurting, counting Brandon Bogotay with a sore groin muscle. This close to the start of the season, there would be understandable angst about the kicking situation as the Browns set their final, 53-man roster this weekend. However, Graham’s back problem is not considered serious; his return was listed as questionable. As was the case with Campbell, even a marginal health issue is generally enough to keep a player out of a preseason game … especially the final one.

>> David Nelson’s debut. Nelson entered the game early in the second quarter, but didn’t get his first chances to make a catch until later in the half. The first target was incomplete, with an obvious miscommunication between quarterback and receiver. The second try, on a crossing route, gained four yards, but the third bounced off of Nelson’s hands. His rust was understandable. After all, the guy hasn’t played a game since undergoing major knee surgery nearly a year ago with the Buffalo Bills. Nelson did show good explosiveness and speed. However, it’s hard to tell if he was able to do enough to convince the Browns’ decision-makers he is worth keeping on the final roster. Other factors, including the leap of faith that Nelson can return to the effective form he showed when he was healthy, will have to go into that call. Nelson did help himself with a 16-yard catch to set up a 32-yard Lanning field goal just before halftime.

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